Girl School for Grownups

Like having a big sister, but better because I can't boss you around!

Codependency hurts

on December 2, 2014

For a very long time I hated the word “codependent.” To me it sounded like therapy speak and ranked right up there with other words I don’t like such as “inner child” and “issues.” The words made it seem like you weren’t taking responsibility for yourself somehow. But in the last year or so I’ve been working on my codependency issues (I can’t believe I typed those words!), and I’m finding a lot of emotional freedom as a result.

So what is codependency? Here’s an excellent essay from Mental Health America (MHA) that discusses it. According to this essay, codependency develops in families where any of the following are present:

  • An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
  • The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness.

Ding ding ding! Growing up with a mother who was bipolar and had OCD definitely came with some issues. Again, from MHA:

Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become “survivors.” They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t confront. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited.

Attention and energy focus on the family member who is ill or addicted. The co-dependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of a person who is sick. When co-dependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self.

I’m not sure what else to say, because it’s all fairly new to me. But I can say this: I’m finding a level of freedom and happiness that feels fantastic. And this: if you need more information about codependency and what to do about it, send me an email at I can point you in the direction of resources that are working for me.

One response to “Codependency hurts

  1. Carol Williams says:

    Dear Leslie, This is very interesting and gave me lots of food for thought about an issue I dismiss out of hand. Glad to know you are making progress. Love, Aunt Carol

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