People often throw the term “codependency” around, and upon first inspection, you might exclude yourself from this term based on the negative connotation. Many people, however, find themselves in codependent relationships at some point during their lives, and recognizing the signs can help you get a handle on your relationship.

Simply put, codependent individuals rely on and overemphasize the needs of others and may find themselves in relationships with people who have an addiction, who are controlling, or who are abusive. Though, often, codependency expresses itself quietly and is harder to identify.

5 Symptoms of Codependency

Here are five common signs that codependent people often share.

#1 Approval Addiction (People Pleaser)

“Yes,” people and those with approval addiction may feel fearful of letting someone else down and, therefore, have difficulty setting healthy boundaries and knowing when to say no, even when they are overextended, exhausted, or overbooked.

Approval addiction can have a detrimental impact on intimate relationships, but can also have professional implications. Once coworkers find out that someone is a “yes” person, they take advantage of their willingness more easily.

#2 External Focus

Rather than focusing on what you want or need, you may find yourself over-focusing on another to make sure that they are getting what they want or even just wondering about the status of your relationship to obsession.

An external focus can also slip into the realm of fantasy when individuals spend too much time imagining how their relationship should be or what needs to happen in order to finally feel happy. Codependent individuals may have a pre-written script and feel disappointment when the cast (those around them) stray from it.

#3 Exercising Control Inappropriately

Codependent individuals may try to control the actions of others through manipulation – or even through caretaking. While having some control over the trajectory of your life is essential, codependency can lean toward manipulation either through emotions or actions.

#4 Over-Sensitivity

Rather than setting healthy boundaries and having confidence in your performance and choices, codependent individuals may find themselves taking everything to heart, reacting strongly to others’ emotions as if their opinions are truth rather than an opinion or situational assessment.

An extreme example might be receiving negative feedback on a work project and automatically jumping to feeling like a complete failure at life.

#5 Low Self-Esteem

We don’t all feel like rockstars 100 percent of the time, but consistent low self-esteem can point toward codependency. A constant feeling of being unworthy of love and inadequate as a partner can drive individuals to seek relationships where they are “needed” rather than “wanted.”

What to Do about Codependency

First of all, shaming yourself will only keep you locked into unhealthy relationships. None of us are perfect and can all benefit from taking on the tough work of improving ourselves and our lives. Taking action toward developing healthy boundaries, nurturing true intimacy, and learning self-care can be powerful first steps.

Our Boulder-based therapy groups including the Therapy Mastermind Circle and DARe workshops help therapists and individuals alike learn to help themselves, their partners, and move toward greater happiness by addressing deep attachment wounds that impact our adult relationships.

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