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Alcohol and Mental Health

5 Signs of Codependency and How To Overcome Them

June 28, 2023
10 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 28, 2023
10 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 28, 2023
10 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 28, 2023
10 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 28, 2023
10 min read

By now, we’re all well-acquainted with the saying that humans are social beings, creatures with a deep-seated need for connection and belonging. Interactions with others — from close, intimate relationships to friendly chats with the local barista — enrich our lives in countless ways. Sometimes, though, instead of adding value, these connections start to drain us.

What Is Codependency?

Take a moment to consider this: have you ever felt a lingering anxiety before a meet-up with friends because you can't seem to be your authentic self around them? Or perhaps you felt overwhelmed by a barrage of intrusive, judgemental queries about your personal life? These could be indicators that your relationships are causing more stress than joy. Left unaddressed, this strain can negatively impact our overall well-being and contentment.

In the realm of relationships, one pattern that often lies at the heart of such stress is codependency. Codependency is a relationship dynamic in which one person sacrifices their needs and well-being to meet the needs of another. This can lead to feelings of exhaustion, resentment, and a sense of losing oneself.

What Causes Codependency?

Childhood experiences can play a significant role in codependent tendencies. Growing up in a family in which emotions were ignored or discouraged, or there was a lack of consistency and safety, can make us more prone to codependency. We might learn to associate love and care with self-sacrifice, leading us to neglect our needs in adulthood.

Another risk factor is having a close relationship with someone who struggles with substance misuse or a mental health disorder. In an attempt to support and help them, we might end up losing ourselves in their needs, giving rise to a codependent dynamic.

Additionally, societal and cultural norms often reinforce the idea that taking care of others at the expense of ourselves is virtuous. Self-care and boundary setting are considered selfish, which can lead us to compromise our own needs. This belief can make us more susceptible to codependency, as we strive to fulfill society’s expectations.

Finally, our personal characteristics can also increase the risk of a codependent relationship. If we struggle with low self-esteem or fear of abandonment, or if we have a strong desire to please others, we may find ourselves slipping into codependency in an attempt to secure love and approval.

5 Common Signs of Codependency

But how do we recognize if we're caught in a codependent cycle? Let's explore five common signs.

Sign #1: A Need for Approval

One of the earliest signs of codependency is an excessive need for approval from others. If we often find ourselves making decisions based on what others would think, or feeling distressed when we perceive disapproval, it's time to examine those tendencies. This constant striving to please others can erode our sense of self and lead to chronic stress.

Sign #2: Difficulty Saying No

Another hallmark of codependency is difficulty saying no to others. If we often find ourselves agreeing to things that we don't want to do, just to avoid conflict, that can be a sign. This lack of assertiveness can make us feel taken advantage of and further intensify feelings of resentment.

Sign 3: Lack of Self-Care

In a codependent relationship, we might find that our own needs always take a backseat to the other person’s needs. If we're constantly prioritizing others' needs over our own well-being, we could be nurturing a codependent pattern. Over time, this can lead to burnout and emotional exhaustion, leaving us at a greater risk of substance misuse and physical health problems.

Sign 4: Fear of Abandonment

As we mentioned above, a deep-rooted fear of abandonment is another sign of codependency. If the thought of being alone or rejected makes us anxious, and we constantly cling to people to avoid feeling abandoned, we may be caught in a codependent cycle.

Sign 5: Over-Responsibility for Others

Finally, feeling overly responsible for others' feelings, actions, and well-being can indicate codependency. If we find ourselves constantly worrying about how others are doing, or blaming ourselves for their actions, it's a signal to reassess.

Overcoming Codependency

Recognizing these signs is the first step. But how do we break free from codependency? Here are a few strategies:

  • Prioritize self-care: Make time for self-care and self-nurturing activities. It's okay to put our own needs first sometimes. Turn your notifications off and go for a walk, or sit in the tub for a while with a good book. When you take the time to recharge, you can step away from codependent situations and gain the clarity to assess whether they’re truly serving you.
  • Set boundaries: Learn to assertively communicate your needs and set healthy boundaries. This takes time and practice, and (if you’re like the rest of us!) you probably won’t get it right the first time or every time. Try saying no to something small, and gradually build your confidence to assert yourself in more challenging situations. On our app, we even have a course all about setting healthy boundaries that has helped over 2,000 users.
  • Seek support: Reach out to a mental health professional or join a support group. Sometimes we need a little guidance — and that’s okay! These professionals or support groups can give us additional perspectives and guidance.
  • Develop self-esteem: Work on building your self-esteem and self-identity outside the context of others. When we wrap our identities around others’ needs and opinions, we tend to lose ourselves a bit. However, when we hone in on our unique talents and abilities, we are less likely to get swept up in codependent relationship dynamics.
  • Practice mindfulness: Cultivate awareness about your feelings, needs, and reactions. Starting a mindfulness meditation practice, or simply journaling for a few minutes each day, is an excellent way to start building more awareness.

Final Thoughts on Codependency

While we are inherently social beings, it's essential that our relationships nurture and empower us, rather than leaving us feeling depleted and stressed. Codependency can subtly infiltrate our relationships, but by recognizing the signs and actively working towards overcoming them, we can reclaim our sense of self and build healthier, more balanced connections.

Tackle Codependent Traits With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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