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How to Overcome Codependency: A Step by Step Guide

Understanding how to overcome codependency is the first step to making the changes you need to develop healthier relationships.

Everyone has a need for attention, affection, and love. It is what makes us human. Interactions between humans allow us to form relationships based on positive emotions. These connections result in us feeling valued and as if we belong.

In a sense, humans depend on relationships with others to feel satisfied and happy. However, there is a fine line between dependency and codependency when it comes to leading a healthy life.

In this article, you will learn what codependency looks like and discover how to overcome codependency following four basic steps.

How to Overcome Codependency

Codependency is an obsessive and unhealthy need for affection from others. Obtaining the attention or love from someone else becomes the focus and goal of your existence.

Many people refer to these feelings and behaviors as having a relationship addiction. Meaning, even when the attention or affection being received is negative or abusive, the person remains in the relationship to fulfill the need or desire to be close to someone.

Some reports categorize codependent behaviors. There is a type of codependency called the martyr who often wants to be rewarded or recognized for their suffering. Others are considered the savior type of codependent. Meaning, they are always there to save the day for someone else, even if it means their needs do not get met.

Some codependents will loan a family member money even if it means one of their own bills do not get paid. They consider themselves to be saviors.

Other types of codependents include the counselor, who is always there for others, offering advice. There is the people pleaser, the one who cannot say no, even when they are limited on time, money, and effort.

All of these are forms of codependency. There are specific symptoms you can look for when trying to determine if you are dealing with codependent behaviors.

Step 1: Recognize Symptoms

Having a fear of abandonment can often lead codependent people to hold onto unhealthy relationships, no matter how poorly they are treated. You may also feel an extreme need for approval, are overly sensitive to criticism, and fear to assert yourself.

Codependents often over-react in situations and make impulsive decisions, even if the consequences are dangerous. In addition, there can be severe boundary issues within codependent relationships. These boundary violations can lead to a loss of sense of self.

Further symptoms include having problems with anger, either holding it in until you explode or over-reacting in anger in many situations. You may also like added drama or conflicts, especially when it creates more attention towards yourself.

You may also need recognition from others when you feel you have put forth efforts or gone out of your way to help someone. You feel a desire to receive a reward for your efforts. While you need approval from others, you also may find it hard to trust others.

Occasionally, you find yourself telling lies when it is just as easy to tell the truth. You do this not because you are a bad person, but simply because you gain more emotionally when exaggerating or expanding the truth.

Symptoms do not have to be permanent, however. There are many steps you can take to recover from codependency. There are self-help avenues and treatment with professionals. In combination, both lead to an improved lifestyle for you.

Keep reading to learn the steps you can take to start your recovery today.

Step 2: Reach Out for Help

Reading a list of symptoms to help you determine if you are codependent is a start. However, to truly find out, you need a diagnosis from a licensed therapist who provides codependency therapy.

Some symptoms, as with every ailment, can be created by several origins. Professional therapists are trained to pinpoint where your symptoms develop. They can also help you develop a treatment plan for your recovery.

You may choose to work individually with a specialist or join a support group. There are many people struggling with codependency, just like you.

Therapy can help you learn how to adjust to changes, increase your self-esteem and worth, and figure out how to be independent physically and mentally. It can teach you how to be assertive when necessary and make your needs a priority.

You can learn that seeking help is a positive move. Gaining support through therapeutic activities can help you redirect negative behaviors so you can envision and reach happiness.

Step 3: Refocus

Being able to change your focus means when negative thoughts and feelings arise, you switch them to positive ones. You learn what is acceptable and not acceptable from others.

Refocusing will teach you how to take risks in relationships again and not be afraid of establishing healthy relationships. You will learn to win in relationships because your focus will be on the positive acceptance and giving and meeting the needs regarding emotional and physical intimacy.

In the end, you will be able to focus on accepting yourself throughout the entire recovery process.

Step 4: Recovery

Recovery sounds simple in definition. It means to return to a normal state of being. This means you put in the work it takes to take your physical and mental health from a negative place to a more positive existence.

There are basic principles of recovery, established by both mental health and addiction agencies.

These principals include becoming empowered for positive change. It not only means restoring your life internally but also with the outside community and relationships. It is a form of rebuilding that grants hope and gratitude through improved overall wellness.

The Codependents International Anonymous group reports there are patterns of recovery for codependency. In recovery, you will be able to differentiate between positive and negative behaviors and thoughts. You will be able to have compassion for others without the need to fix or solve their issues.

Self-esteem, denial, compliance, control, and avoidance are all dealt with appropriately. You can learn to differentiate between the positive and negative sides of each.

In recovery, you will be able to let go of constricting circumstances to free yourself, so you can begin living your healthiest life possible.

Conclusion

If you feel you are struggling to balance the line between dependency and codependency, consider following these four steps.

Start by evaluating your relationships for common symptoms of codependent relationships. If you suspect there is room for improvement, you should reach out to a licensed therapist for guidance. Your therapist will provide you with everything you need to refocus and work toward recovery.


Chris Massman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Agoura Hills, CA. She graduated Phillips Graduate Institute with a Master of Arts in Psychology in 2014 and received her Chemical Dependency Specialty in 2014. Today, she practices Congnitive-behavioral therapy to help individuals, couples, and families identify and overcome a variety of unique challenges.