What Are Some Warning Signs of Codependent Behavior

Codependents are reactionaries. They overreact. They underreact. But rarely do they ACT.” ~ Melody Beattie, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

Codependent behavior is often found in families impacted by substance abuse or mental illness.

It is considered a learned behavior because one individual watches another and then imitates their behavior. For example, the loved ones of a person with Substance Use Disorder can literally develop their own addiction, namely, to maintaining their relationship with the addict, no matter what the cost.

This is unhealthy for both the addict and the codependent.

Why Is Codependent Behavior Unhealthy?

When SUD is involved, codependency quickly becomes enabling. In other words, the desperate actions of the loved one to protect the addict from the consequences of their actions invariably lead to worse problems. Because they never have to deal with any real repercussions, the addict is empowered to keep on using and drinking.

The suffering family gets locked into an endless cycle of chaos and dysfunction until something tragic finally happens – arrest, homelessness, financial ruin, destroyed relationships, overdoses, or even death.

All the while, the addiction progresses and gets worse, and so do the codependent behaviors:

  • Resentment
  • Passive-Aggression
  • Manipulation
  • Dishonesty
  • Attempts to control the addict
  • Withholding affection
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Neglecting other relationships and responsibilities

Codependents are usually completely unaware that their actions are unhealthy and counterproductive. After all, in their mind, they are trying to help and protect their struggling loved one.

7 Common Signs of Codependent Behavior

To help you identify these self-destructive tendencies within your own family, here are our 7 warning signs of codependent behavior.

#1: You Feel the Need to Be Liked by Everyone

A major sign of codependency is constant approval-seeking. Your self-esteem is based on how well-liked/loved you are, not just by your loved ones, but by everybody you meet. You are consumed with thoughts of what others think about you.

#2: You Find it Hard to Set Boundaries

People who are codependent have difficulty setting and enforcing personal boundaries. They allow their lives to be negatively impacted by someone else’s illness far more than they should. If you have trouble saying “NO” to your addicted loved one, or if you do more and put up with more than is good for you, that might be a red flag suggesting codependence.

#3: You Suppress Your Emotions

In an effort to “keep the peace” codependents tend to bottle up their own feelings and only tell others what they want to hear. They go to great lengths to avoid confrontation. Not being able to express or even articulate how you feel can have a drastic effect on your mental and physical well-being.

#4: You Put the Needs and Desires of Others Ahead of Your Own

In a codependent relationship, one person’s needs are always prioritized, even as the other person’s needs are ignored. For example, because they are so preoccupied with protecting and cleaning up after the addict, a codependent person might:

  • Stop taking care of their health
  • Have poor job attendance and performance
  • Withdraw socially
  • Neglect other relationships
  • Fall behind on their own bills
  • Miss birthdays, holidays, and other special family occasions
  • Lose sleep
  • Not eat regularly

#5: You Fake It and Pretend That Everything is “OK”

Codependents often find it much easier to ignore problems or hope they will go away on their own. If anyone outside the situation expresses concern, they automatically resort to denial, minimization, or defensiveness. Unfortunately, that prevents them from getting help for either themselves or the addict.

Ask yourself, do you automatically answer “I’m fine”, even though your life has become unmanageable due to a loved one’s substance use?

#6: You Feel Personally Responsible for Someone’s Behavior

Codependent people are often forced into the role of caregiver, to the point that they think they are completely responsible for how the other person behaves. They feel that it is somehow their job to clean up the addict’s messes and to fix all of their problems.

Have you:

  • Felt embarrassment, guilt, or shame about something your addict has done?
  • Covered for them at work or school?
  • Made excuses to friends and family?
  • Paid their bills, car payment, or rent?
  • Bailed them out of jail or paid their fines?
  • Hired an attorney for them?
  • Let them move into your home?

#7: You Try to Control The Addict

Codependents will often go to extreme lengths to control the behavior of their addicted loved one because it gives them a sense of power in a situation over which they are actually powerless.

Have you ever:

  • Tried to track your addict’s whereabouts and movements?
  • Gone through their phone or computer?
  • Hidden money?
  • Hidden their car keys?
  • Stayed up worried about them?
  • Went out looking for them?
  • Nagged them, argued with them, or made empty ultimatums?
  • Withheld affection?

Help for the Whole Family

As the oldest and most trusted outpatient rehab program in San Diego, Lasting Recovery is the top resource for individuals and families whose lives have been disrupted by addictive or emotional disorders.

For the substance abuser, Lasting Recovery offers evidence-based treatment strategies that help them safely and successfully regain their long-term sobriety and their emotional balance.

For family members, Lasting Recovery provides education and encouragement, in the hopes that they seek counseling for themselves.

If someone else’s drinking or drug use has made your life unmanageable and you are ready for a change, contact Lasting Recovery TODAY.

Lasting Recovery – “Where Wellness Begins…”

Help is waiting. Contact us now.


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