Codependent behavior can cause stress in many different areas of your life, but therapy can help you process your impulses and create a plan for change.

Healthy relationships thrive on an equal amount of give and take in which partners reciprocate to meet each person’s needs. And one major part of reciprocation in a relationship involves knowing that you can depend on the other person, and they can depend on you.

However, codependency can happen when there’s a lack of reciprocation, and one person prioritizes the needs of another — often at the expense of their own needs. For people with codependent personalities, this can lead to relationships that are one-sided and unhealthy.

Ahead, we’ll explore more about what it might look like to have a codependent personality and share some information about treatment options and recovery.

Personality disorders cause people to think, feel, and behave in ways that cause them distress and are not typical or expected for their culture or background. When someone has a personality disorder, it can have a serious effect on their ability to function and have healthy relationships with others.

Currently, there are 10 personality disorders, each of which falls into 1 of 3 categories based on symptoms.

Codependent personality disorder isn’t a personality disorder under The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). Instead, the term codependency describes a set of behaviors that leads to unbalanced and unhealthy relationships with others.

Codependency is common in people who have a parent, partner, or even friend with substance use disorder, chronic illness, or mental illness — or those who have experienced trauma. However, it can affect anyone in any relationship when an imbalance develops in the “give and take” between those involved.

You can learn more about dependent personality disorders in this article.

Someone who has a codependent personality will often disregard their own feelings, time, and even needs in order to prioritize another person in a relationship. Codependent people often take on the role of the “giver” or “rescuer” while the other person is the “taker” or “victim.”

Some of the behaviors of people with codependent personalities may include:

  • finding it difficult to identify their own feelings
  • minimizing or denying their own feelings
  • having trouble making decisions for themselves
  • criticizing themselves and putting themselves down
  • struggling to ask others for what they need
  • seeking constant validation and approval from people
  • steering clear of criticism or negative views from others
  • making assumptions about feelings and being overly sensitive
  • people-pleasing at the expense of their own needs
  • attempting to control the people in their lives
  • offering unsolicited advice or help to other people
  • believing that other people cannot care for themselves
  • rejecting any kind of emotional or physical intimacy
  • avoiding conflict with others by using indirect communication
  • believing that all responsibility is on their shoulders
  • staying in unhealthy or even abusive relationships

Codependency is not a one-size-fits-all behavior, and there are many different forms of codependency. For example, some people with codependent personalities are more compliant in relationships, while others are more controlling.

Whatever the type, all types of codependency can cause people to fall into unhealthy and unequal relationships with others. It can also have a significant effect on someone’s mental health, leading to symptoms like low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression.

If you think you might have a codependent personality, treatment can help you work through those feelings and behaviors and improve your relationships. Here are some of the most commonly used treatment approaches for people in codependent relationships.

Self-help

One of the first steps in addressing codependent behaviors is recognizing what codependency can look like and how it manifests for you. Some of the ways to do this are through:

  • self-education, such as reading self-help books or books on codependency
  • speaking with family, friends, or partners honestly about your relationship behaviors
  • getting support from a trained mental health professional, like a therapist

Therapy

One of the most effective treatment approaches for people with codependent personalities is therapy. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can help you identify and change the codependent thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are affecting your life and your relationships.

Learn more about how to find a therapist here.

Support groups

Codependency support groups can offer support for people with codependent personalities who are looking to recover. Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) is one organization that offers a full recovery program with steps, meetings, resources, and more.

Why do codependents stay in bad relationships?

Codependent people are often caretakers for others, but caretaking becomes one-sided when the other person can’t or doesn’t give as much in return. Over time, this behavior can become compulsive, and the codependent person may find it difficult to stop or leave.

If you or someone you love is having trouble navigating a codependent relationship, here are some resources that can offer support:

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Codependency isn’t a personality disorder — it’s a trait that can affect the way that someone behaves in their relationships with others. People with codependent personalities often sacrifice themselves in order to prioritize the people they’re in relationships with.

Although codependency can feel like an ingrained personality trait, there are treatment approaches that can help someone recognize and change these behaviors.