How To Stop Being Codependent And Overcome Codependency

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated July 27, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Free, private support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Codependency, often called "relationship addiction," is a behavior where people engage in one-sided relationships focused on their partner's needs to the detriment of their own. Codependent people often have lower self-esteem and higher social anxiety than those who are not. Restructuring or leaving relationships with someone you consider dependent can be challenging. You may benefit from learning more about these patterns or contacting a professional to understand them further.

Constantly Sacrificing Your Needs For Others?

What Is Codependency?

Codependency in relationships is a pattern of behavior where one person's needs and emotions depend on the other person's behavior. This behavior can occur in any relationship, not exclusive to romantic connections. However, codependency is often defined by relationship dynamics. In codependent relationships, one partner may struggle with one or more of the following:
  • Substance use disorders

  • Gambling disorder

  • Other mental illnesses 

  • Physical health challenges, such as chronic diseases

  • A disability 

  • A history of trauma or abuse

A codependent partner may give more than they receive, which can make their partner dependent on them. Over time, a codependent partner may become resentful and experience hostility as they feel stuck in a caregiving role. 

For example, a codependent person married to someone with an alcohol use disorder may seek to help them overcome their disorder by showing them an abundance of affection. However, the codependent partner may be enabling them by hiding destructive behaviors instead of addressing the underlying cause of alcohol use. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

What Is A Codependent Personality?

Codependency can be a personality type rather than only a relationship dynamic. Growing up in a dysfunctional family or one that fails to provide secure attachment may lead children to experience low self-esteem, neuroticism, and a compulsive desire to please people. 

According to an analysis of individuals with self-identified codependent personalities, a reduced sense of self, extreme emotional, relational, and occupational imbalance, and problems related to control and abandonment during childhood drove codependent behavior. 

The following are signs commonly seen in people with codependent personalities:

  • Consistent caregiving for a partner 

  • Loss of individual identity

  • Trust issues

  • People-pleasing 

  • Low self-esteem and self-worth

  • Indecisiveness

  • Reliance on a partner 

  • Obsessiveness 

  • Difficulty saying "no"

  • Denial of relationship challenges 

  • Difficulty communicating effectively

  • A desire for control 

  • Difficulty with emotional intimacy

  • Fear of rejection or abandonment 

If you feel you are living in the shadow of your partner or have a compulsive need to care for your partner, even if it means sacrificing your own needs, it can be a sign of a codependent relationship

How To Address Codependency 

Codependency is not classified as a mental illness; it is a learned maladaptive behavior of self-sacrifice. For some, the first step to addressing codependency is acknowledging its existence and the need for support. 

If you are experiencing signs of codependency or feel your partner's behaviors and thoughts are central to your self-worth, you may want to consider whether you have a codependent personality. Addressing underlying substance use disorders, mental illness, and low self-esteem may be a start. You can also try the following.  

Do Your Homework

In addition to psychotherapy, you may find it helpful to use workbooks to develop a more profound understanding of your self-esteem. You might also keep a journal about your feelings and relationship dynamics. Try to reflect on the following questions: 

  • Can you find examples of codependency in your relationship? When does it typically occur? 

  • How does your relationship dynamic make you feel? 

  • Do you know when this dynamic first occurred? If so, do you know what might have incited it?

Journaling can help you learn to start identifying unhealthy behaviors and organize your thoughts between therapy sessions. According to research published in 2017, psychoeducation can be a crucial element of effective therapeutic treatment and may help you address your concerns more successfully. 

Research On Your Own

You can learn more about codependency from reputable sites like the American Psychological Association (APA). Learning more about codependency can help you identify maladaptive behaviors. However, therapy is often recommended to address the underlying factors contributing to codependency. 

Constantly Sacrificing Your Needs For Others?

Talk To A Professional 

Codependency can be confusing and complex. Therapists use different modalities to effectively address trauma, mental illness, and low self-esteem that may drive codependent behavior. In particular, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may help address these patterns. During CBT sessions, therapists work with clients to empower them to identify, evaluate, and reframe maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

If you find it challenging to discuss your emotions with others, seeking therapy from the comfort of your home may be more appealing. A 2022 study of online cognitive-behavioral therapy found that it effectively improved self-esteem and the ability to use healthy coping mechanisms for young people. 

Sites like BetterHelp offer therapy from licensed therapists with experience using CBT and other modalities to address concerns like codependency. In addition, you can choose whether to attend therapy sessions over video, phone, or live chat. For those with busy schedules, online therapy can be a more convenient way to find support.  


Codependency is a common maladaptive behavior that can occur in any relationship. While frequently discussed concerning alcohol use disorder, unhealthy codependency can occur in any relationship, regardless of mental or physical health challenges. Often, codependent personality traits are driven by low self-esteem and self-worth. While you can learn about codependency independently, addressing these complex personality traits and relationship dynamics with a licensed therapist may be most beneficial. Consider reaching out to a provider online or in your area for further support.

Learn to strengthen your mental health

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started