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What codependency is and how to move past it

When we are in need, many of us can think of at least one person we can always rely on, someone who’s willing to drop everything to help us out with anything. But is there a chance that this can be unhealthy? While reliability is a positive characteristic, being ready to help someone at all times while disregarding your own needs may be a sign of codependency.

Codependency is characterized by one person in a relationship relying on another for nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. This often leads to strained relationships and has the potential to devastate the codependent person if the two part ways.

There are several experiences that could lead to codependency: being close someone with an addiction, being raised in a dysfunctional family, growing up with an ill parent, other mental illnesses and more. No matter the cause of one’s codependency, there are common signs that can be used to identify it.


Signs of codependency

  • People-pleasing
  • Never saying no to others
  • Constantly doing more than your share
  • Always doing things for others and never yourself
  • Thriving off of the feeling that people need you
  • Feeling that you won’t be accepted if you are yourself
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • An extreme need for approval and validation


Practices to move away from codependency

Codependency is often rooted in one’s childhood, making it difficult to overcome. However, there are things both the codependent person and other people in their lives can practice to work toward becoming emotionally independent.

For those close to someone with codependency

  • Help them recognize it. Helping someone understand the issue they are dealing with is a necessary first step. They cannot work on becoming more mentally healthy until they know that there is something that needs to change.
  • Educate yourself alongside them. The more you both understand the issue, the more they can improve. This opens up opportunities for discussions about what you’re learning and what can be improved. This also allows them to start this process trying to help you out, slowly transitioning to helping themselves out.
  • Sometimes, say no to their assistance. Your loved one will constantly try to meet your needs before their own in order to make sure you want to stay close to them. It will be better for them if you reject their offers to help and reassure them that you want to be in their life regardless.
  • Provide less guidance over time. When you start helping your loved one, they may initially be more cooperative because they want to support you. To truly move away from codependency, they need to do it for themselves. Always stop to make sure progress is being made, and let them work more independently over time.

For those with codependency

  • Practice guided journaling. Journaling is an excellent practice in mindfulness, especially when writing about pre-determined topics. Spending undistracted time doing this every day will increase mindfulness and help you figure out what you can change, why you should change it and how the change can be made. Relate these thoughts to the people in your life so they can support you as best as they can.
  • Seek out therapy. While you should involve the people in your life on your journey moving away from codependency, a certified therapist will be able to help you even more. Like journaling, a therapist will help you identify the what, why and how about the challenges you face and will help you realize things you may not have on your own. They will also provide practical steps to help you achieve more emotional independence.

If you have recognized yourself or someone you know as codependent, try to employ these strategies. Moving away from codependency will increase your self-confidence and happiness and will strengthen your relationships. To connect with a Centerstone counselor for mental health help, call 1-877-HOPE123.


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