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I am a psychologist who has been in private practice for over 15 years in Bryn Mawr, PA-Western Suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I have a special interest in issues affecting women.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

FIVE SIGNS YOU MAY BE CO-DEPENDENT AND TIPS FOR CHANGING IT
 

Simply stated, co-dependency describes a dynamic in which one person enables and supports another person’s dysfunctional behavior or poor emotional health like alcohol or substance abuse, immaturity, irresponsibility and under achievement. 

 It’s important to acknowledge that having dependency needs is healthy and normal.  In mature and healthy relationships, people are able to comfortably rely upon one another for support, understanding and help while at the same time retaining a sense of independence and autonomy. And this dynamic is reciprocated, not just one sided. Healthy dynamics between people fosters independence, resourcefulness and resiliency. While co-dependent dynamics stifles and limits growth.

   Recently, psychologists and other mental health workers have learned that codependent behaviors also contribute to the formation of dysfunction families in general and not just families struggling with addiction or substance abuse.  So addressing codependency behaviors in treatment is crucial for helping ALL families get healthy and back on track.

Common behaviors and signs associated with co-dependency are as follows:

1.    Need for excessive approval from other people.
2.    Organizing thoughts and behaviors around others’ perceived expectations and desires.
3.    Overly defined sense of responsibility of others’  happiness and emotional well-being.
4.    Inability to express one’s true thoughts and feelings for fear it will upset others.
5.    One’s identity and self-esteem is dependent on other’s approval and assumed expectations.

     Codependency is a learned behavior and can be changed. Below are a few ways in which you can begin to change co-dependent behaviors:

1.    Awareness.  Keep and journal for writing down co-dependent behaviors and the situations in which they are most prevalent. For example, when someone appears to be struggling do you automatically jump in to help or rescue? Do you help to the extent that your own emotional and physical needs are put on the back burner? Codependent behaviors in part are normal feelings of responsibility and compassion gone awry.
2.     Boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries is crucial for changing co-dependent behaviors. Being able to say NO without feeling guilty, anxious or afraid is what having healthy boundaries feels like. This is challenging for co-dependents since pleasing others’ is crucial to their sense of self, so saying NO is scary and anxiety producing. Have a clear sense of the boundaries that feel right to you and write them down. Place this list in an area of your home where you can regularly read it. This will help reinforce your boundaries and make them more conscious to for you. Be prepared by knowing that upholding your boundaries at first will be difficult at best. Have a plan in place for coping with these difficult feelings by making sure you’re making time to take care for yourself during this transition.
3.     Entitled. Feeling entitled to having your own thoughts, feelings, and opinions (even when others’ do not agree or feel the same way) is important for breaking co-dependent behaviors. Co-dependent behaviors are formed and reinforced by internal pressure to pleasing others’ therefore the co-dependent person has not developed their own identity or individuality.  Working on developing an authentic sense of self and healthy entitlement increases self-esteem and self-respect, both of which act as a buffer against continuing co-dependent behaviors.  
4. Therapy. Co-dependency is a set of behaviors and beliefs about one’s self and others’ that forms in early childhood. Talking with a professional helps with better understanding one’s unique reasons for developing co-dependent behaviors and once fully understood lowers the chance of developing future co-dependent relationships and increase the chances for having mutually satisfying and healthy relationships.

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