Codependecy Counselling Vancouver

Therapy for Codependency & Relationship Issues

What is Codependency?

Co-dependency describes neglecting one’s own needs and desires to fulfill the needs of others. It describes a pattern of behaviours in relationships in which the codependent person feels responsible for others’ wellbeing. They will go to almost any length to meet the needs of their partners or family members, despite great costs to themselves.

All relationships require some sacrifice at times. Sometimes one person needs more support from us than we do from them. When both people support each other, derive value from the relationship, and can express their needs and emotions to each other comfortably, it’s a sign of a healthy relationship.

A codependent person doesn’t have such a balanced or equal relationship. They disregard their own needs and feelings for the sake of others and find their identity and self-worth through being needed. They are unhappy unless the other person is happy. Codependent relationships are often one-sided, unhealthy, and often emotionally destructive.

Signs of Codependency

Common signs of codependency include:

Low self-esteem: People with codependency are often unable to find happiness and satisfaction outside of doing things for the other person. They feel shame and guilt about thinking of themselves in the relationship.

Poor Boundaries: Those in codependent relationships avoid asserting themselves, saying “no”, or expressing their personal needs or desires. They often withhold their true feelings out of fear of upsetting others, even in response to hurtful words and actions. They usually feel constant anxiety about their relationship due to their preoccupation with making others happy. They might even sacrifice their own morals or conscience to do what the other person wants.

The need to “rescue” others: A codependent person may feel the need to save and protect others from harm. They will go out of their way to fix or solve others’ problems.

Neglecting one’s own needs:  A codependent person usually cares more about others’ wellbeing than their own. They might feel guilty when taking care of themselves and feel uncomfortable allowing others to support them.

Perfectionism: It is important for codependent people to give the impression that they are self-sufficient and independent. They tend to over-extend themselves and struggle to recognize their own limits.  It’s common for them to react defensively to criticism and feel ashamed when making mistakes.

Risk Factors

Childhood. In most cases, codependency starts in childhood. It’s common for codependent adults to have grown up in an environment where someone dismissed or punished their emotions. This kind of emotional neglect fosters the idea that their needs and feelings are unimportant. As a result, they develop low self-esteem and an unclear identity outside of being needed.

Parenting. As a child or teenager, codependent adults likely learned that their needs were less important than their caregivers’ needs, if important at all. To consider their own needs was deemed selfish and ungrateful. They learned to ignore their own needs and occupy themselves with what they can do for others.

Sometimes parents struggle to provide appropriate care to a child because of their own addictions, mental health issues, or other stressors. The child or teenager then takes on responsibilities beyond their age.

Caregiving. Some parents expect their child to take care of them. Parents in physically abusive relationships might seek emotional support through their child (reverse parenting). Caring for a family member or partner with an illness or disability can require full-time dedication: these individuals often become so accustomed to ignoring their needs and providing around the clock care that they feel most secure in that role.

Addiction. Codependency often shows up in relationships with addiction issues, such as substance abuse, gambling, or eating disorders. The codependent person enables the other person’s addiction and unhealthy behaviours.

Abuse. Codependency often appears in abusive homes and relationships. Such behaviours become a way to cope with feelings of shame, worthlessness and un-deservingness that stem from emotional abuse.

Counselling for Codependency

Although codependency does not qualify as a mental health condition, psychologists and counsellors apply the term in practice. Codependency co-occurs with a host of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and eating disorders. Codependency has negative consequences for both parties in the relationship. It creates dysfunctional, complex family patterns. The person who relies on the codependent does not learn how to be accountable and expects others to make sacrifices for them.

In terms of treatment, psychotherapy can help you make healthy choices in your relationships and put an end to saving and caretaking behaviour. As codependency usually stems from childhood, treatment emphasizes identifying and understanding the relationship between early childhood experiences and current codependent relationship patterns. Connecting to the needs and feelings that the person never allowed themselves to as children is essential. Families must work together to build a healthy family system. It is critical for all those involved to acknowledge codependent behaviours and attitudes (e.g. “the need to be needed”) to create positive change.

Learning about codependency is the first step. Through understanding, you can move forward and develop healthy patterns. A professional counsellor can help guide you as you establish new boundaries, heal from unhealthy relationships, and finally take care of yourself.

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