Recognizing Codependent Behavior

Four strategies to help turn around negative relationships.

Healthy dependency dynamics foster independence and resiliency. But co-dependent dynamics—enabling another’s dysfunctional behavior or poor emotional health—stifle and limit growth. Experts say that such behavior can contribute to dysfunction in families.

In a healthy relationship, one can comfortably rely on another for support, while also retaining a sense of independence and autonomy.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, common behaviors associated with co-dependency include:

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  1. A need for excessive approval from others.
  2. Organizing your thoughts and behaviors around the perceived expectations and desires of others.
  3. An inflated sense of responsibility for the happiness and emotional wellbeing of others.
  4. The inability to express one’s true thoughts and feelings for fear it will upset others.
  5. An identity that is dependent on the approval of others.

Co-dependency is learned and can be altered. Here are four ways to get started:

  1. Be aware. Keep a journal of co-dependent behaviors and situations. When someone appears to be struggling, do you automatically jump in to help, putting aside your emotional and physical needs?
  2. Set boundaries. Being able to say no without feeling guilty, anxious or afraid is crucial. Upholding boundaries will be difficult in the beginning, so have a plan in place for coping.
  3. Own your thoughts, feelings and opinions. Valuing them is a potent weapon in breaking co-dependent patterns, which are formed and reinforced by internal pressure to please others.
  4. Consider therapy. Talk with a professional to gain a better understanding of your co-dependent dependent behaviors. 

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