Am I Codependent?

Questions & Answers: True or False

  1. Without even realizing that it is happening, I find myself focusing on others' needs, even at my own expense.
  2. When it is my turn to receive help from others I usually decline, as I am uneasy when others focus their attention on me.
  3. I have many times taken pride in the fact that I am a "helper" with others, and I can easily postpone or deny my own needs.
  4. I feel the best about myself when I am giving advice and/or handling a crisis situation.
  5. Many times I have waited for others to take care of me in return, only to discover that it is never my turn.
  6. Sometimes I am so focused on one person that I can only think about that person and how to help them.
  7. I take good care of my friends. Most people like me because of what I can do for them.

If you answered true to most of the above questions, you may be codependent. To be codependent is to be skilled in the art of taking care of other people rather than of yourself.

If You are Codependent, Typically You:

The codependent's self-concept has developed around the needs of others instead of developing in its own right. As children, most codependents felt responsible for other family members' feelings or behavior. If a family member was unhappy or in trouble, the codependent child came to believe that it was his or her job to "fix it." Later as an adult, others came to depend upon this person for help, especially in crisis. This person, who was and is always so good at helping others, is you, the codependent.

Codependency can be called an other-addiction. The other that they are addicted to may or may not be another person. If it is a person, they may or may not be chemically dependent. The codependent could be addicted to approval or affirmation of others. They could only be happy if others "make 'them feel happy." They also can be "If-only" addicted: "If only XYZ would happen," then they think they will be happy. They are looking for people, things, or circumstances outside of themselves, or how others react to them to bring them happiness.

The problem with this is that it doesn't work! We have no control over how others feel or act towards us. It is not anyone else's responsibility to make us happy. We set ourselves up to be unhappy if we need others approval or acceptance to find any happiness.

Sometimes the person we are in a relationship with doesn't contribute anything to the home or relationship, and just sits back and lets us do all of the work. The hardworking one in the relationship can become very tired and even resentful. They start out "rescuing" the partner. Then they begin to resent the partner. This is especially true when the "victim" is not grateful.

Eventually this resentment can spill over and the person who began as a rescuer might become abusive and the one not doing her or his share becomes a victim.

Often the person being "rescued" starts to feel either incompetent or guilty. Then they may lash out at the rescuer. And the rescuer can feel extremely frustrated that they are not appreciated. After all, a lot of their rescuing is done to meet their need for approval. The person who has been overdoing it starts to see that person not doing his share as being incompetent. Then they might lash out at the rescue and become a persecutor. It just can become downright ugly.

Codependents often struggle with an overwhelming need for approval from others around them. Sometimes they will do things that are against their values or standards because of their great need for others to approve of them. Often, their need for approval will drive them to burn themselves out, to please others and give, give, give. Even if they are exhausted and feeling resentful, they don't think they should feel that way. So, they push on.

Codependent people may also have difficulty owning their own feelings. While everyone experiences a wide range of feelings, codependent people tend to experience them in a way that completely overwhelms them. This is because their feelings may have been minimized in the past -- possibly for years. To deal with this, they desperately begin to seek affirmation of their thoughts and feelings. In doing so, they begin to place more importance on other people's opinions than on their own. They have learned not to trust their own feelings, and eventually cannot even recognize them, since they are so accustomed to "feeling the way they 'should feel'" in certain situations.

Another type of codependency shows up with feelings of worthlessness. These are people who feel that they have to be perfect (always doing for others, doing well, and never making a mistake). Often they feel that to have any value, they have to earn it and be good enough.

Some feel so worthless that they can begin to think and feel that they do not deserve to live. If they feel that they are a failure, then even a very minor mistake can only confirm to them their belief that maybe they really are worthless. The feeling is very real and can build quickly, and help should be sought by those who feel that way.

The truth is that nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. Most mistakes can be fixed. Most people will forgive us. Even if the mistakes we make are huge, unfixable, and unforgivable, we still can make changes. We have great value to others who are in our lives and to God as well. Pia Mellody says that. " I can admit to myself that I have worth [even though I am imperfect) and have joy about my worth but also experience pain when I know that my imperfection causes trouble for me and others in relationship with me."

When we make a mistake, and then feel like a failure, we get the focus wrong. If we are saying to ourselves, "Oh I am a failure, no good " (or whatever our version of torment is), then we are not fixing the mistake that we made.

First it isn't true that we are a failure, and we will be miserable for nothing. Secondly, if we can look at how we have hurt the other person, it will help us to show them we care about the pain we have caused and want to change. Also, it might help us to avoid repeating the mistake.

Source: National Council of Codependency