How to Stop Being Codependent (10+ Tips and Examples)

Are you tired of feeling trapped in unhealthy relationships? Do you feel a constant need to please others, often at your own expense? You might be dealing with codependency.

Learning how to stop being codependent is a transformative journey toward healthier relationships and personal growth.

So, let’s dive into decoding this frequently misunderstood concept! Brace yourself for a journey of self-realization and empowerment as you learn how to break free from codependency and reclaim your independence.

What Is Codependency?

At its core, codependency is an emotional and mental state where individuals forsake their needs and desires to fulfill those of others, predominantly out of an ever-growing need for approval and a fear of rejection.

Codependency started gaining traction in the late 20th century, originally used to describe those in relationships with substance abusers. However, it’s expanded now to encapsulate a broader range of scenarios and dynamics.

Origins and Development

This behavior can often stem from early childhood experiences, such as growing up in a household where feelings were invalidated or neglected, leading to skewed opinions about self-worth and connectivity.

Codependency in Relationships

Believe it or not, codependency can lurk in any type of relationship. However, in intimate partnerships, it’s especially evident.

The Caretaker

One partner might take the caretaker role, constantly sacrificing personal needs or even healthy boundaries in a bid to save or fix the other.

The Taker

Conversely, the other partner may become reliant, excessive, and even manipulative to maintain this beneficial arrangement.

Identifying the Signs: Is This You?

So, what does codependency look like in day-to-day life? Let’s dive into some common signs:

  • You find it difficult to say “No.”
  • You feel responsible for others’ feelings.
  • You crave approval and recognition from others.
  • You tend to neglect your own needs for the sake of others.
  • You fear abandonment and will go to lengths to avoid it.
  • You often feel anxious about the thoughts and feelings of others.
  • You might feel trapped in your relationships.

Can you identify with any of these traits? Codependency is complex and can look different from person to person.

The Causes of Codependency

"But wait! How did I become codependent?" you might be wondering.

Codependency can stem from a variety of causes, often rooted in our childhood or past experiences.

Past Trauma

One of the most common roots of codependency lies in past trauma, often dating back to childhood. This trauma could take various forms, such as:

  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect

When children experience such traumas, they often learn to cope by suppressing their needs and emotions, as expressing these could lead to more conflict or harm.

Example: If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you might have learned to ignore your needs to avoid triggering a volatile parent or to protect a parent struggling with their own issues.

While possibly helpful in the short term for survival, this adaptive behavior can lay the groundwork for codependent behavior in adulthood.

Societal influences

In addition to personal experiences, societal and cultural influences play a pivotal role in shaping our behavior, including the development of codependency. Society often praises self-sacrifice and giving, labeling these as virtues while branding selfishness as a vice.

While altruism is indeed a positive trait, an imbalance can lead to constantly putting others’ needs before your own, leading to resentment, exhaustion, and the loss of personal identity.

It’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is not selfish — it’s necessary. The societal narrative that idealizes constant self-sacrifice can often blur this critical truth.

Other Causes

Lastly, it’s essential to consider the role of mental health conditions in fostering codependent behaviors. Conditions like anxiety disorders or depression often coexist with codependency.

These conditions can amplify feelings of unworthiness and fear, leading individuals to seek validation and security through other people’s approval, hence reinforcing codependent behavior patterns.

While the causes of codependency are diverse and complex, recognizing these factors is the first step in understanding and overcoming codependency.

Reference: Can Codependency Be Fueling Your Chronic Depression?

Remember! Your past might have shaped you, but it doesn't have to define your future. 

The Consequences of Codependency

Physical Toll

Just as a car needs regular maintenance to run smoothly, our bodies also need care and attention. However, codependency often shifts our focus away from self-care, placing the needs and happiness of others above our own.

This imbalance can lead to several physical repercussions:

  • Exhaustion and Burnout: Constantly prioritizing others leaves little time for rest and recuperation, leading to a state of chronic fatigue.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Stress and anxiety caused by codependency often disrupt our sleep patterns, resulting in conditions like insomnia.
  • Health Issues: The constant state of stress may also lead to headaches, digestive problems, and even more serious conditions over time.

Think of it as running a marathon without training or rest. It’s not just strenuous but can be harmful in the long run. Remember, a healthy body is essential for a healthy mind.

So, if you’ve been neglecting your physical well-being due to codependency, it’s time to prioritize self-care.

Emotional Impact

Codependency can feel like an emotional rollercoaster.

One moment, you’re on cloud nine, reveling in the approval and happiness of the person you’re dependent on. The next moment, you’re plummeting into despair when they’re unhappy or disapproving.

Here are some common emotional effects:

  • Low Self-Esteem: Your self-worth is linked to the approval of others, causing you to undervalue yourself.
  • Anxiety and Depression: Constantly catering to others’ needs can lead to chronic stress, breeding grounds for anxiety and depression.
  • Resentment: Over time, you might start to feel resentful as you continuously neglect your own needs for others.

These emotional effects aren’t just challenging to deal with, but they also make it harder to break free from the codependency cycle.

Psychological Consequences

In the whirlwind of codependency, it’s easy to lose sight of who you are and what you want.

Codependency can lead to the following psychological consequences:

  • Loss of Personal Identity: You may find your interests, goals, and needs taking a backseat to those of the person you’re dependent on.
  • Strained Relationships: Codependency often fosters dysfunctional relationships, leaving you feeling unsatisfied and trapped.

Example: Consider Sarah, who loved painting but stopped because her partner didn’t appreciate it. Over time, Sarah lost touch with her passion and felt a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction.

If you resonate with Sarah, it’s crucial to rediscover your interests and pursue them.

Reference: 16 Codependent Traits That Go Beyond Being a People Pleaser

Pro Tip: Acknowledge your feelings. It’s okay to feel bad, but don't let it control you.

#1: Tips on Self-Awareness and Understanding

Recognize Signs of Codependency

Understanding the patterns of codependency is essential. These patterns may include feeling responsible for others’ feelings, constantly putting others’ needs before your own, and having a hard time saying no.

By identifying these behaviors, you can begin to change them. Consider seeking professional help if you find it difficult to identify these signs on your own.

Tip: Maintaining a daily behavior journal can aid in identifying codependent patterns.

Identify Triggers

Knowing what situations, people, or emotions trigger your codependent behaviors is a key step. Is it a certain person, a particular situation, or an intense emotion?

Identifying your triggers can help you prepare better responses and create a plan of action for future encounters.

Example: If you tend to become codependent when feeling insecure, you could develop strategies to boost your self-esteem during such times.

#2: Tips on Self-Improvement and Personal Growth

Boost Self-Esteem

Healthy self-esteem is crucial in overcoming codependency. Cultivate self-love through:

  • Affirmations
  • Maintaining physical health
  • Practicing self-care routines

This can help improve your confidence and self-image.

Increase Emotional Intelligence

Increasing your emotional intelligence can help you identify and manage emotions in yourself and others. This skill can promote healthier interactions and reduce codependent tendencies.

Tip: Mindfulness and meditation exercises can boost emotional intelligence.

Related: How to Improve Mindfulness and Meditation (Using Your Learning Style)

#3: Tips on Managing Relationships

Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting and respecting physical, emotional, and psychological boundaries in relationships is critical. Clear boundaries ensure respect for your personal space and needs.

Example: If a friend tends to call late at night, disrupting your sleep, you could set a boundary by asking them to call during more appropriate hours.

Related: How to Set Healthy Boundaries With Friends (19 Ways + Tips)

Develop Assertiveness

Being assertive means expressing your needs and opinions respectfully and confidently. This is crucial to maintaining healthy relationships and avoiding codependency.

Tip: Practicing assertiveness in non-threatening situations, like ordering food at a restaurant, can help build this skill.

#4: Tips on Building Personal Independence

Financial Independence

Achieving financial stability can significantly reduce dependency on others. It provides the freedom to make choices and decisions without relying on others for support.

Example: Creating a budget can help you understand where your money is going and highlight areas where you can become more independent.

Enjoy Solitude

Being comfortable with and enjoying your own company reduces dependency on others. This might mean finding hobbies you can do alone or simply taking time each day to be by yourself.

#5: Tips on Therapeutic Aids

Explore the Subconscious

Seeking therapeutic help to uncover underlying beliefs or experiences that contribute to your codependency can be very beneficial.

A trained professional can guide you in identifying these factors and developing a plan to overcome them.

Tip: Techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy can help explore subconscious beliefs and behaviors.

Maintain a Personal Journal

Documenting your thoughts and feelings regularly can help you understand your emotions and behaviors better. This can help identify patterns and triggers of codependency.

Example: Write about a situation where you felt codependent and how you handled it to track your growth over time.

#6: Tips on Behavioral Changes

Engage in Personal Hobbies

Committing to personal interests and activities can bring joy and independence. They can also provide a sense of accomplishment and reduce the need for validation from others.

Example: Picking up a hobby like painting, cooking, or gardening can provide personal growth and fulfillment.

Embrace Routine

Maintaining a structured daily routine provides stability and predictability. It can also increase self-confidence and independence.

Tip: Start with small daily routines like making your bed or having a regular mealtime.

#7: Tips on Self-Valuation

Celebrate Progress

Even small steps toward overcoming codependency should be celebrated. This boosts morale and motivation, making the journey towards recovery more enjoyable.

Example: Celebrate if you have been able to set and maintain a boundary, even if it’s a minor one.

Align Actions With Your Values

Ensure your behaviors align with your personal values. If independence is a value you hold dear, make decisions that promote this value.

Did You Know? Living in accordance with personal values can improve overall happiness and satisfaction in life.

The Role of Professional Help

Codependency is a complex issue, and while self-awareness and personal growth work are crucial, sometimes we need a little extra help. That’s where professionals come into play. Let’s explore their role in overcoming codependency.


Understanding and untangling our emotions can be a challenging task. It’s like finding our way out of a maze without a map. That’s where therapists come in. They can provide that much-needed map and guide us in the right direction.

Insight and Understanding

Therapists can help you understand your emotions and behaviors better.

Example: They can help you recognize patterns of codependency in your relationships.

Coping Strategies

Therapists can teach you effective strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and other emotions associated with codependency.

Safe Space

A therapy session is a safe, non-judgmental space where you can express your feelings freely.

Related: What to Talk About in Therapy (60+ Examples from Therapists)

Therapies Often Used to Treat Codependency

Our thoughts, emotions, and actions are interconnected, a concept central to therapies like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), often used to treat codependency.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a talk therapy that helps you understand and change thought patterns that lead to harmful behaviors and emotions. It challenges negative thoughts and replaces them with healthier, more positive ones. 

Example: If codependency makes you undervalue yourself, CBT helps you recognize these thoughts, understand their inaccuracies, and cultivate a positive self-view.

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a type of CBT that blends mindfulness practices, teaching you to accept and tolerate your emotions rather than battling them. This acceptance facilitates positive behavioral changes.

Reference: What’s the Difference Between CBT & DBT?

Practical Skills from Therapy

Both therapies offer tools to address harmful thought patterns fueling codependency, helping you develop healthier relationships.

They teach skills like:

  • Setting boundaries.
  • Saying no” comfortably.
  • Learning self-validation.

Through these therapies, you can substitute negative, codependent thoughts with healthier ones, guiding your journey toward a more independent self.

Support Groups

Battling codependency can feel isolating, despite being surrounded by loved ones. However, there’s a beacon of solidarity and understanding — support groups.

These communities offer a unique form of companionship, with members wrestling the same thoughts and emotions as you, creating an empathetic space where your struggles are shared and understood.

Shared Struggles

Support groups, at their core, are a community of individuals who are, or have been, in the same boat as you.

They’re people who are wrestling with the very same thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing, providing a unique form of comfort and companionship.

There’s something incredibly soothing about being in a space where you don’t have to explain yourself, where your struggles are not only understood but also shared.

Peer Support

Support groups also offer invaluable peer support. With members at different stages of their journey, the environment fosters:

  • Mutual encouragement
  • Advice
  • Learning

Wisdom is shared from those further along, fostering a cycle of support that propels growth and recovery.

Remember Al-Anon? It's one of the most well-known support groups designed for people affected by someone else's alcoholism. Today, it serves as a lifeline for many dealing with codependency.

Medication: When Necessary

In the journey of overcoming codependency, there may come a time when a healthcare professional suggests the use of medication.

This is particularly common if you’re grappling with co-existing mental health conditions, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety

These disorders, which often walk hand-in-hand with codependency, can sometimes necessitate pharmaceutical intervention as part of a holistic treatment approach.

However, it’s important to remember:

Medication Is Not a Cure-All

It’s designed to assist in managing symptoms of mental health disorders, making them less overwhelming and, consequently, making the process of therapy more effective.

Medication can provide the necessary breathing space for you to explore your feelings, emotions, and patterns of behavior with a clearer mind during therapy sessions. Yet, it’s vital to underscore that medication should never replace therapy but instead complement it.

Think of it as a tandem bicycle, where therapy and medication work together, each playing an essential role in your journey to recovery.

Therapy provides the strategies and tools for long-term change, while medication can help stabilize the emotional ups and downs that might obstruct this process.

Always Consult a Healthcare Professional

As with all health-related matters, it’s of the utmost importance to consult a healthcare professional before starting any medication.

While it can be tempting to look for a quick fix, self-medication can be dangerous, even life-threatening. Different medications work in different ways and have different side effects.

A healthcare professional can guide you through this, taking into account the following:

  • Your overall health.
  • Your mental health diagnosis.
  • Other factors like potential interactions with other drugs you may be taking.
Pro Tip: Always consult a professional to ensure it is the correct step for you, and never try to navigate this path alone.

Tips for Seeking Professional Help

These tips aim to guide you in making informed decisions, ultimately leading to the best possible outcome for you.

Tip 1: Do Your Research

Starting your journey toward recovery necessitates a significant first step: Doing your research.

It’s crucial to seek therapists who hold expertise in codependency. They’ll understand your challenges better and be equipped with the right tools and strategies to help you.

  • You can research online.
  • Ask for recommendations from trusted friends or family.
  • Get a referral from your general practitioner.
Remember, experience matters. 

So, don’t shy away from asking prospective therapists about their background in treating codependency.

Tip 2: Patience is Key

This brings us to the second tip, which can be summarized in two words: Don’t rush. The process of finding the right therapist or support group may take some time.

Much like building any relationship, developing a therapeutic alliance requires trust, comfort, and mutual understanding.

It’s important that you feel at ease discussing your thoughts and feelings with your therapist; sometimes, finding such a connection takes time.

Tip 3: An Open Mind Leads the Way

Therapy can sometimes feel like a roller-coaster ride. There might be challenging moments, times when you uncover uncomfortable truths, and days when progress feels slow. This is where the third tip comes in: Keep an open mind.

Remember! Therapy is a journey, not a sprint. It involves self-discovery and change, both of which can be difficult. 

Be open to the process and remind yourself that these challenges are stepping stones towards a healthier, happier you.

In conclusion, seeking professional help for codependency is an empowering step. It’s about choosing to equip yourself with valuable tools and resources to navigate your journey toward recovery.

Think of it as having a companion on your journey who offers a helping hand when you need it most.

Remember! Every step you take is a step towards your own well-being and independence.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to overcome codependency?

Overcoming codependency is not a race, but a personal journey. It takes time and varies from person to person, depending on the depth of the codependency and the individual’s commitment to change.

Can a relationship survive if one person is codependent?

It can be challenging, but yes, a relationship can survive and even thrive if the codependent partner is willing to acknowledge the issue and work towards change. The other partner’s understanding and support can also make a huge difference.

What if I backslide into old patterns?

Overcoming codependency is a journey, and it’s normal to experience setbacks. The important thing is not to be too hard on yourself when this happens.

Recognize it, learn from it, and continue to move forward. Remember, every step you take is a victory!


Addressing codependency involves reclaiming your independence and crafting a fulfilling life based on your terms. It’s a journey, not a race, and every stride towards independence is a win.

Value your efforts and celebrate progress, no matter how small. Patience, persistence, and the belief in your capacity to live free from codependency are essential.

Remember, your worth has always been intrinsic, not dependent on others!

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Jessa Claire

Jessa Claire is a registered healthcare provider. Music lover. Daydreamer. Thalassophile. Foodie. A hardworking Capricorn. Most days, an incurable empath. An old soul. Down-to-earth. Vibrant.

When she's not writing, she can be seen relaxing with headphones on or engrossed in her favorite fan fiction book.