Quora Blog Responses

What is the definition of codependency? What are some traits of codependency? How can codependency be stopped?

I myself am a recovering codependent.

I would describe codependency as being so low in self esteem and lost to oneself that we become dependent on getting our validation externally. We are unable to validate ourselves due to some form of childhood trauma (either in the home or the social system).

This lack of self esteem causes us to give people power over us. Sometimes we become addicted to these people because they make us feel complete. As one client wisely said for her “people were like a drink on two legs”.

Codependency is a very hidden addiction and it is in my view at the core of all addictions yet seldom named. Why do people drink, gamble, have eating disorders, etc because they don't feel comfortable being who they are or around people or they are lonely. They don't feel good enough and isolate, leading to major anxiety.

Many codependents wear a mask and hide who they really are because they fear rejection. Yet under the mask is a beautiful person. Wearing the mask is tiring and to escape their fear of rejection, drink, drugs, gambling, eating or isolation can be a welcome break

Being codependent can leave us vulnerable, vulnerable to people pleasing and caretaking for approval. To ensure we will be liked because of our low self esteem, we don't believe we will be loved for who we truly are. This can lead us to attract coercive toxic controlling relationships, which we can find difficult to leave because we may have become addicted to that relationship for our sense of self.

Childhood trauma can also cause us to push people away to keep us safe from more pain and hurt.

The good news is we can recover, the first step is naming it for yourself, awareness is progress. Seek a therapist who specialises in codependency. Read or audio listen to the book ‘codependent no more’ by Melody Beattie ( from the characteristics chapter on if under time pressure), go to CODA meetings or ACOA meetings there you can practice taking the mask off amongst people you can trust.

Finally but most importantly not only are you giving yourself the gift of freedom, you are helping your children and the next generation by breaking the unhelpful patterns of the past. Our children's self esteem is linked to our self esteem. It's worth the work. Good luck moving forward.

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