Are You in a Codependent Relationship?

Feb 15, 2021

The health of your most important relationships is one clue about your well-being, yet you may spend far more time thinking about the person in your life who’s struggling with substance use issues. This kind of relationship can be exhausting as you put more energy into meeting your loved one’s needs without ever making your own needs a priority. Today, let’s talk about these kinds of codependent relationships that can develop for friends or family members and how to break codependency.

Codependent relationships are common forms of dysfunctional relationships, especially among people with substance use disorders. They appear as one person changing their behaviors to enable another person’s unhealthy choices. For someone with a substance use disorder, a codependent partner may feel they could be rejected or abandoned if they stop pleasing the other person. Codependency can begin in childhood when young people in dysfunctional families learn to live through the feelings of others instead of their own. Help for people in codependent relationships where drug or alcohol use appears can come from a treatment program for substance use and mental health disorders.

What does a codependent relationship look like?

A healthy relationship is a balanced one, where people use good communication and self-care. Signs of codependency can come from one person’s identity and choices being shaped by the needs of the other person. This kind of imbalance looks like one person attempting to meet the needs of the other without prioritizing their own needs. They may sacrifice time and their own interests, too, as they focus on the relationship first. For some people in a codependent relationship, they may feel trapped in a cycle of serving someone else emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Codependency symptoms can vary from person to person. Someone in a codependent relationship may routinely feel stressed, depressed, or anxious. Their self-esteem may be low. They may overreact to situations. Codependency issues may also include struggling with setting healthy boundaries with a loved one and with others.

Is codependency common?

Codependency rates vary in adult relationships, but it is common. Research suggests most Americans are in a low-level codependent relationship right now. It also suggests less than half of adults are in what’s considered a middle or high level of codependency. These higher levels usually come with more incidents of self-destructive behavior. They sacrifice themselves in numerous ways just to keep the relationship going. The symptoms of codependency, which include difficulty identifying your feelings, a lack of boundaries, and valuing the approval of others more than yourself, are more prevalent in these cases.

Root Causes of Codependency

Codependency can be caused by a variety of situations early in life. Abandonment by a parent of a loved one may be a cause. A child whose parent doesn’t validate their feelings or even acknowledge them may learn that only other people’s feelings matter and should get attention. Being rewarded in some way by always putting others first can lead to codependency in a relationship where the only benefits appear when a sacrifice of personal interest is made.

How to Break your Codependency

Breaking the cycle of codependency in relationships involves many steps. Before anything else, you must recognize the symptoms codependency and admit to your codependent personality. Having denial is what keeps people in harmful relationships. Being honest with yourself about what the relationship looks like can be a helpful starting point to ending codependency. Finding ways to accept yourself and acknowledge your strengths can be another way to break the cycle. This effort is about building yourself as an individual, independent of the relationship. Scheduling time exclusively for your interests (or with people who share those interests) allows you to rediscover yourself and devote energy to reconnecting with friends and family members.


Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561.841.1272.

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