Top Hallmark Warning Signs Of Co-dependency

Continuing on from my last blog about “when intelligent women attract the wrong men” there is also the tangent of co-dependency. Co-dependency knows no boundaries and isn’t defined by a person’s social status, sexual preference, skin colour, age, race, hair colour, gender, height, weight or even shoe size – it is a free for all, anyone can be affected by it.

What is co-dependency?

Co-dependency is defined by Mental Health America as:

“An emotional and behavioural condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with co-dependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.”

Psychology Today defines relationship co-dependency as:

“A specific type of dysfunctional helping relationship. Broadly speaking, in dysfunctional helping relationships, one person helps support (enables) the others underachievement, irresponsibility, immaturity, addiction, procrastination, poor mental health or physical health.“

Co-dependency has such a broad spectrum of definitions that culling it down to specifically looking at “relationship co-dependency” gives a more targeted approach.

Characteristics of co-dependent people include:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others.
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue.
  • A tendency to do more than share, all of the time.
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognise their efforts.
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment.
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition.
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves.
  • A compelling need to control others.
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others.
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone.
  • Difficulty identifying feelings.
  • Rigidity and difficulty adjusting to change.
  • Problems with intimacy and healthy boundaries.
  • Chronic anger.
  • Lying and dishonesty.
  • Poor communication skills.
  • Difficulty making decisions.

How do co-dependent people behave?

Low self-esteem is a major trait of a co-dependent person they look for anything outside themselves to make them feel better. They find it incredibly difficult to be themselves, and often end up turning to drugs, alcohol or nicotine to feel better. More times than not they become addicted like they do with a co-dependent relationship, others develop compulsive behaviours such as gambling, indiscriminate sexual activity and workaholism.

Addiction quote
Image: Patrick Carnes Addiction Quote

The good intentions are there, trying to look after someone who is experiencing difficulties isn’t a bad thing. What is bad is when it becomes compulsive and defeating when they become benefactors to an individual’s needs. Examples include; a wife may cover for her alcoholic husband, a mother may make excuses for an absentee child and a father who may “pull strings” to keep his children from suffering consequences for their actions by involving themselves in criminal behaviour.

The problem is when a destructive course begins to cycle as repeated attempts allow the needy individual to continue, they become more dependent on their unhealthy caretaking role as the benefactor. This increases as the co-dependent develops a sense of achievement and satisfaction for being needed, thus turning it into a compulsive, choice less and helpless behaviour within the relationship dynamic. They are unable to break away from this vicious and consuming cycle, they view themselves as victims and are attracted to the same weakness in the love and friendship of relationships.

Differences between co-dependence and dependence

It is very important to know the difference between the two, one is a positive and desirable trait whilst the other is harmful.


Both people will rely on each other for support and love. Both find value in the relationship they also both make their relationship a priority while still having interests, hobbies and friends outside the relationship. Expressing emotions and needs is done in a way where it benefits both parties.


Feeling worthless unless they are needed by the other person is a normal trait for a co-dependent, as well as making drastic sacrifices for the enabler. Satisfaction is only gained from the enabler and this is achieved by getting their every need met by the other person. The only time the co-dependent is happy is when they are making extreme sacrifices for their partner. In order to feel purpose they need to be needed by their partner, all of their interests and values are controlled by their partner’s interests and values, in turn they have no personal identity. They feel their own needs and desires are not important and will not express them, they have a difficult time understanding their own feelings or needs.

On the flip side an enabler also has a dysfunctional role, they are a person who relies upon a co-dependent and does not know how to have an equal. Instead they involve themselves into a two-sided relationship and rely on the other person’s sacrifices and neediness.

Identifying signs of co-dependency

Mental Health America has a questionnaire to identify signs of co-dependency, there are different degrees and intensity levels of the symptoms and they range in a spectrum of severity. Please note that only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of co-dependency, but if any of these symptoms are of concern to you please don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.

  1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
  2. Are you always worried about other people’s opinions of you?
  3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
  4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
  5. Are the opinions of other people more important than your own?
  6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
  7. Do you feel rejected when your significant other spends time with friends?
  8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
  9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
  10. Have you ever felt inadequate?
  11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
  12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
  13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
  14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
  15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
  16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
  17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
  18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
  19. Do you have trouble asking for help?
  20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?

Morgan x

Author: Morgan is a consultant from Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *