What is Codependency and What Are Some of the Signs and Symptoms
By Lisa A. Romano
When you are a codependent person, you are often unaware that your relationship style is problematic. Often, you are someone who quickly loses themselves within a relationship once you begin to have feelings for a partner, or you might discover that you are the friend who tends to be the one others come to help them resolve their problems.
People may have described you as the ‘mother hen’ or the ‘therapist’ of your friend group. Yet, no matter who has an issue or their needs, you seem to be the one who rescues or finds a way to help those you care for.
Codependent people often don’t know why they seem to want to help, fix or even rescue others so quickly. We tend to be those who feel at our best when there are those we are taking care of. When we don’t have someone to fuss over or worry about, we may feel at a low. We might even feel depressed and anxious without someone or a specific problematic situation to worry about.
Research has suggested that those who struggle with codependency lack a healthy sense of self. Adults who present with codependency symptoms tend to be those who have survived childhood emotional neglect and other forms of childhood trauma that may have required them to abandon the self for survival.
All children need a healthy attachment to their parents and or caretakers. When that attachment is compromised, and a child cannot secure with their parent for reasons such as parental alcoholism, or emotional neglect, they are denied the trust they need to develop a healthy sense of self.
Think about it.
If your house was on fire, would you spend your time sitting and pondering how your inner self feels about a fire ravaging your home, or instead, would all of your attention be focused on surviving the fire by looking for the quickest exit?
Chances are your survival brain would be far more concerned about finding safety than it would be about your conscious self checking in with your emotional self. As a result, your default survival mechanism would automatically kick in, and fight of flight would take over. The survival response takes place outside your conscious decision-making
And so it is for those of us who grew up feeling as if we could not securely attach to the people our brains knew were there to protect us. When bonds and attachments to those we love are threatened, including threats, that many people would not even recognize, such as abuse by omission. In contrast, emotional needs are denied, and personal boundaries are nonexistent; our brains recognize that we are not as securely attached as our default operating system would prefer. Hence, the reason a newborn child can experience stress.
The quality of a mother and father’s bond to their child forms the foundation for the ability to develop trust and intimacy and to tolerate feeling vulnerable in future relationships. However, it is also the underpinning for the components that will form a child’s perception of self. If the mother and father ignore a child’s emotional needs, a
child is unable to value the emotions they experience. A child who has been emotionally abandoned will scour the environment for a sense of connection to soothe their fears. In time, this child’s brain will continue to wire itself accordingly and, in turn, assume its role in the world is to figure out how to please others enough to feel secure.
Suppose your sense of self is tied to how well you can please others. However, upon a more objective analysis of how you relate to others, you discover that who you think you are is tied to your ability to anticipate the needs of those you care for. In that case, you may want to consider how ‘seen’ you felt as an innocent, impressionable child.
Symptoms of codependency include:
● The need to make sure others are okay and not suffering
● The need to please others at the expense of the self
● The need to figure out what others need while you remain uncertain of your own needs
● The need to tone yourself down out of fear of making others angry which may lead to them leaving you
● The need to avoid conflict out of fear of potentially threatening any shred of attachment you may feel you have with someone
● The need to fix, rescue, and assist others as a means to assure others find value in you and keep you around
● Poor personal boundaries and the inability to clearly define who you are and what you need, as well as to acknowledge what you will and will not tolerate in a relationship
● A sense that you are not real and an imposter
● You don’t know who you are outside of believing it is your responsibility to manage the needs as well as the emotions of others.
One of my taglines is, “You can’t fix a hole in the wall you can’t see .” Once you identify yourself as someone who may be codependent, you are already on the road to recovery.
The great news is that the human brain has an innate need to understand WHY we feel, think, and behave as we do. So, as you gain valuable personal insight on your emotional growth journey and discover codependent traits in yourself, embarking on the journey inward allows you to be codependent no more!
As a recovering codependent and adult child of parents who were raised by alcoholics, I can attest with great confidence that there is no nobler path than the one that leads you back to the divine self. It is possible to heal the abandonment trauma responsible for codependency traits and symptoms. It is also possible to retrain a survival brain and lead a fulfilling adult life in spite of a painful past.
Much luck to you as you journey back home to the authentic you.
In addition to being a regular contributor to the #1 Online Magazine For Codependency Recovery, Lisa A. Romano is a Codependency Recovery Coach and Bestselling Author
Excellent article! The words “you need to tone yourself down” speak volumes. Keep small, stay in the box, don’t stand out, don’t outshine me.
I’m so thankful I came across Lisa A Romanos work because I had no idea what was wrong with me and discovered it through Lisa’s information on FB, You Tube videos and her blogs. I’m currently a part of her 12 week program and I’m seeing results from doing the work! Congratulations Lisa you deserve this honor and thank you for helping all of us who are hurting so deeply from the Trauma we experienced.
I am a graduate of Lisa’s 12 week break through course and I have finally found my true self and I have the courage to keep going to live my best life ever. Thank you Lisa for all your hard work and never giving up !!
You made me remember the great fear I had about Mother passing when I was very young .she would fall in the floor pretending to be dead until I would be histerical and crying. Then she would sit up and say she was only kidding but if I didnt behave she teally would die..lots of other stuff. I’ve spent my entire life trying to please people. My folks kissed me and told me they loved me as I was being taken in to surgery and I thought I was going to die because they had never said those words before to me before . I was only 10 yrs old . So shy in school and could hardly get out the”here” during roll call. .I let people walk all over me and treat me like shit. I need help. Im 70 now. Is there time to enjoy the rest of my life ??