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How to Break the Cycle of Codependency

Apr 17, 2024 | Relationships

As social beings, we depend on others for support, understanding, and socialization. But sometimes, life feels insurmountable, and we feel an overwhelming need for others’ approval or presence to navigate life’s challenges.

In situations where this dependence becomes consistent and unavoidable between two partners, codependent relationships can form.

At its core, codependency involves an excessive emotional or psychological pattern of reliance on a partner who reciprocates this dependency. It’s characterized by a cycle of needing constant reassurance, approval, and support while leaving both individuals feeling unfulfilled.

Understanding and addressing these patterns is the first step towards fostering independence, healthier relationships, and a robust sense of self.

Understanding Codependency

Codependency is a relationship dynamic in which at least one person places their emotional and self-esteem needs on another, who they depend on for external validation. The other individual prioritizes this individual’s needs over their own, enabling them by providing a caretaker role.

In this relational pattern, both parties participate to allow one individual to have their needs met by another. The caretaker who provides support, in turn, relies on the dependent for their self-worth, which they derive from identifying as a hero or rescuer.

While it may appear that one person is hyper-dependent, in this dynamic, both individuals depend on one another for validation and support. Each individual takes a complementary role in the dance of codependency.

At its root, codependency represents less of an individual’s capability to achieve goals than their own beliefs about self-worth, which limit their self-reliance and encourage them to seek external support for things they can manage independently.

The first step to overcoming these beliefs and achieving an accurate appraisal of one’s self-worth is understanding oneself and recognizing signs of codependency.

Signs of Codependency

Identifying codependency within oneself or in a relationship can be challenging, as its signs are often intertwined with the dynamics of care and support. However, recognizing these signs is crucial for breaking the cycle and moving towards healthier relationships.

One of the best ways to recognize potential signs in a safe and understanding environment is with a professional therapist who can appraise your mental health nonjudgmentally and offer constructive strategies for building self-reliance.

Some of the signs of codependency that therapists look out for include:

  • Difficulty Making Decisions Independently: A reliance on others for decision-making, often feeling that choices made independently will lead to disapproval.
  • Fear of Abandonment: An overwhelming worry about being left alone or rejected.
  • Dependency for Self-Worth: Deriving self-esteem exclusively from others, or from being needed to ‘save’ or ‘fix’ others.
  • Poor Boundaries: Struggling to set healthy limits with others, including taking on too much responsibility for others’ emotions or problems.
  • Overwhelming Need to be a Caretaker: Feeling compelled to take care of others’ needs before one’s own, often to the point of neglecting personal needs.
  • Difficulty Expressing Emotions or Needs: Either excessively suppressing one’s own emotions to avoid burdening others, or having trouble identifying and acknowledging one’s own feelings apart from someone else’s.

Steps to Breaking Free from Codependency

Recognizing these signs in oneself or relationships is the first step towards understanding the depth of codependency’s impact. It opens the door to seeking healthier ways of relating to oneself and others, encouraging a journey toward autonomy, balanced relationships, and improved self-worth. Individuals who enter codependent relationships often come from families where they assumed similar types of roles.

As self-awareness deepens, setting healthy boundaries becomes the next critical step. Learning how to express your needs comfortably and how to say no is essential. Effective boundaries are the cornerstone of mutual respect and independence in any relationship, marking where you end and the other begins.

With boundaries in place, self-care and exploring your interests takes priority. Engaging in activities that bring you fulfillment helps reinforce your sense of identity and self-worth. This step is about nurturing your passions and rediscovering your authentic self.

Further, an essential part of this process is learning to be comfortable spending time alone. Embracing solitude without equating it to loneliness allows for self-reflection and growth, removes fear of abandonment, and strengthens self-reliance.

Finally, seeking professional help from an experienced therapist can provide the support and guidance needed to navigate this complex terrain. Professional assistance offers a structured environment to explore the roots of codependent behaviors, learn coping strategies, and gain insights that facilitate lasting change.

Therapies for Overcoming Codependency

One of the best ways to address and overcome codependent tendencies is in a safe environment with a neutral third party. In therapy and counseling sessions, a licensed therapist can guide you or your partner through established tools and techniques to address issues with self-esteem, boundaries, and expressing needs.

Incorporating the techniques listed above, therapists will use different types of therapy to address the root causes of codependency and examine them nonjudgmentally. Some practical options for codependency include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is instrumental in identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with codependency. By focusing on beliefs that cause feelings of worthlessness or the need to be needed, individuals can learn to challenge these thoughts and replace them with healthier, more realistic perspectives.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy offers a supportive and safe space for individuals to share their experiences and learn from others facing similar challenges. The dynamics of group therapy encourage self-reflection, offer new strategies, and provide a platform for practicing interpersonal skills such as setting boundaries.
  • Couples or Family Therapy: Couples or Family therapy can help address the root causes of codependency by looking at relationship dynamics and how they impact development. Couples and family therapy aims to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and foster healthier relationships with families.

Take the Next Step Towards Independence with Start My Wellness

Embarking on the path to overcoming codependency is a complicated journey that is as rewarding as it is challenging. However, through self-awareness, setting healthy boundaries, prioritizing self-care, and engaging with a therapist, the process becomes instrumental for growth and self-actualization.

At Start My Wellness, our team is committed to providing a safe, nonjudgmental space where you can explore the roots of codependency, build your self-esteem, and express your emotions healthily.

Reach out to Start My Wellness today at (248)-514-4955 and meet our therapists to get started on your journey to wellness.


  1. Psychology Today: Codependency
  2. Start My Wellness: What Does It Mean to be Codependent or Independent?
  3. Start My Wellness: The Difference Between Codependency and Interdependence
  4. Psychology Today: Boundaries and the Dance of the Codependent
  5. Start My Wellness: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  6. Start My Wellness: Unraveling Codependency
Dr. Anton Babushkin

Author: Anton Babushkin, PhD

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