By Lindsey Goergen, LMHCA, NCC
You’ve heard the term “codependency”. But what does it really mean and how does it affect your life? Codependency is a very complex and difficult issue that affects many people in different ways. It is usually characterized by individuals who have an excessive emotional or psychological dependence on another person, often to the point of sacrificing their own needs and wants in order to please or accommodate that person.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you aren’t alone! Codependency is a common pattern of behavior that often develops in childhood as a response to an emotionally distant parent or caregiver. For example, a parent or spouse/partner who struggles with addiction or another mental health disorder that makes it difficult for them meet another’s emotional needs. As a way of compensating, some people develop unhealthy habits to try and get those needs met.
People who are codependent often have difficulty setting boundaries and may struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety. It can be a difficult issue to overcome, but fortunately, counseling can be incredibly helpful for people who are struggling with codependency. Through counseling, those unhealthy codependent habits can be replaced by healthier, more effective ways of behaving.
When it comes to counseling for codependency, there are a number of different approaches that can be helpful. For example, talk therapy can be very effective for helping people to identify the underlying causes of their codependency, while cognitive-behavioral therapy can help people to develop healthier coping mechanisms and ways of thinking.
1. Set boundaries: Learning to say “no” and setting boundaries is an important part of recovering from codependency. It’s important to recognize that you can’t control other people’s behavior, and that it’s okay to prioritize your own needs and wants.
2. Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential when recovering from codependency. This includes practicing mindfulness, engaging in activities that you enjoy, and taking care of your physical health.
3. Seek support: Joining a support group like Codependents Anonymous can be incredibly helpful for people who are struggling with codependency. Being around people who understand what you’re going through can be very validating and empowering. To find a support group near you, visit https://coda.org
4. Address underlying issues: Often, codependency is rooted in deeper issues like childhood trauma or low self-esteem. Addressing these underlying issues in therapy can be helpful for long-term recovery.
5. Be patient: Recovering from codependency is a process, and it’s important to be patient with yourself. Don’t expect to overcome your codependency overnight, and celebrate small victories along the way.
With these tips, counseling, and support from resources like Codependents Anonymous, people who are struggling with codependency can begin to recover and live fuller, more fulfilling lives.
Lindsey is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate and National Certified Counselor at Northside Mental Health in Broadripple. Her focus is helping her clients work through codependency, life transitions, stress, relationship struggles, grief, and anxiety/depression. She especially enjoys working with loved ones of those struggling with addiction.