Webster’s dictionary defines codependency as, “Excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one with an illness or addiction”.  Wikipedia states that it is a dependence on the needs or control of another which usually involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being preoccupied with the needs of others, i.e., “chronic neglect of self” and being “addicted” to another person.  Codependency can happen in any type of relationship, including friendship, work, family, and romantic relationships.  Parents can be codependent to their children, wives to their husbands, employees to their bosses.   The roots of codependence include low self esteem, denial, excessive control and/or compliance.

Codependent relationships usually involve behaviors, thoughts and feelings that go way beyond normal sorts of care-taking and self sacrifice.  People who are codependent can take on a martyr role; they consistently put the needs of others before their own and in so doing, neglect to take care of themselves. They “lose” themselves in others.  This is done in a way so as to create a sense that they are “needed” or “useful”.  Codependents cannot stand the thought of being alone and no one needing them and are perpetually in search of the acceptance of others.  It is as if they are trying to exist through what they imagine they can be to another person.   Some codependent people tend to play and be comfortable in a victim role and when they do stand up for themselves, they feel guilty.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Codependency?

  • Excessive caretaking or control of everything such as money, the household, etc.
  • People pleasing / approval seeking
  • Making excuses for the other people’s behavior
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Enabling or rescuing the person with the problem, allowing them to remain involved in unhealthy behavior
  • Shame and low self esteem
  • Denial about the person with the problem
  • Unable to set appropriate boundaries
  • Denial about their own codependency
  • Doesn’t realize that he/she has a problem and thinks that they are helping the troubled person when actually they are not.
  • Preoccupied with keeping a good family image

Narcissists are considered to have natural attractiveness for the codependent.  And it has been postulated that codependency or co-narcissism sometimes has its origins as an adaptation or response to narcissistic parents.  In his fascinating article, Co-Narcissism: How We Accommodate to Narcissistic Parents, Alan Rappoport, Ph.D., states:

I have coined the term “co-narcissism” for this adaptation, which has the same relation to narcissism as “co-alcoholic” has to alcoholism and “co-dependent” has to dependency. Co-alcoholics unconsciously collaborate with alcoholics, making excuses for them and not confronting them about their problem in an assertive way. The same is true of the co-dependent person, who makes excuses for the other’s dependency and fills in for him or her as necessary. The wife of an abusive husband who takes the blame for her partner’s behavior is another example of taking responsibility for someone else’s problems. Both narcissism and co-narcissism are adaptations that children have made to cope with narcissistic parenting figures. To the best of my knowledge, every narcissistic and co-narcissistic person that I have encountered has had narcissistic parents, and the parents of their parents are reported to have been even more highly narcissistic.

Codependency can be very difficult to deal with unless you seek qualified help and support.  The good news is that through counseling, recovery literature, and support, these codependent patterns and their origins can be recognized, faced, and overcome.  If you or someone you know needs a therapist in Baton Rouge and are struggling with codependency, call Baton Rouge Counseling at (225) 293-2913 to schedule a counseling session.  Also check out our marriage counseling baton rouge page.


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