Co-dependency – is an addiction to sacrificing one's own needs in order to try and meet the needs of others.

Typical symptoms are: Extreme people-pleasing behaviours - sustained by an overwhelming need for approval and at the same time, a validation of their purpose in life as the carer of another.

The 'need to be needed' - creates a complex of psychological and emotional thoughts and behaviours, which are designed to reinforce their need to help and remain an indispensable part of a person's life. Their actions will be constantly justified because of "their love" for the other person who "could not manage without them".

Fear of being rejected or abandoned -because they feel depressed or lonely when they're by themselves for too long even if they can function on their own. Inability to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive and leads to feeling trapped.

Being the only person who really understands - often leads to deliberately overlooking negative, harmful behaviours and making excuses for the co-dependent person. As a result, the other person is prevented from becoming independent or even from receiving treatment.

Co-dependency behaviour can become so powerful -- that the other person becomes overwhelmed and actually starts to become needy, thereby completing the pattern of reinforcement behaviour reflected back at the co-dependency addict.

As addictive behaviour escalates, the underlying causes of an individual's co-dependency are strategically avoided.

Causes of co-dependency
  • Can often be traced back to an individual's childhood - when they may have been forced into a 'caregiver's' role and constantly called upon to meet the needs of others while learning to suppress their own needs.
  • A feeling of emptiness, loneliness, shame or low self-esteem - which uses the needs of others to fill the inner lack of 'wholeness'.

Co-dependents may display one or more of the following:

Poor boundaries feeling responsible for other people's feelings and problems or blame their own on someone else

Over-sensitivity reacting to everyone's thoughts and feelings

Rigid boundaries feeling closed off and withdrawn, making it hard for other people to become close.

Need to control other people need to behave in a certain way, which helps co-dependents feel safe and secure.

Dysfunctional communication of thoughts, feelings and needs. Afraid to be truthful due to a fear of upsetting someone else.

Obsessing over other people or relationships of– or about making a "mistake."

Denial -of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy. An inability to face up to the underlying problems, which are constantly blamed on someone else or the situation. Instead of understanding their own feelings and needs they are focused on the feelings and needs of another. Pretending to be self-sufficient instead of reaching out and receiving help.

More serious problems ...

If left untreated, more serious and self-destructive behaviours can develop from panic attacks and anxiety disorders to alcoholism, drug addiction, food and sex addiction. Being less likely to seek medical attention when needed. Social insecurity caused by co-dependency can progress into full-blown social anxiety disorders.

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