Emotional Health

What the root cause of Codependency is

10 Mins read
the root cause of codependency
the root cause of codependency

Codependency is one of the most unhealthy traits you would ever have when it comes to relationship. Knowing the root cause of codependency can help you get yourself out of unhealthy relationship or the least, cope with it.

Not only does being codependent affect your mental health and emotions in general but it is also prone to result into drug and substance abuse.

Also, having a loved one who is codependent can make quitting bad habits such as gambling and drug abuse very difficult.1 When a person is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, family and other close relationships can be vital in helping the person to overcome the addiction, providing emotional support, motivation, and practical help throughout the treatment and recovery process.

Many people misuse the term ‘codependent’ especially when referring to women in abusive and violent relationships. The truth of the matter is that there are many reasons why people may get stuck in abusive and non functioning relationships which include;2

  1. Fear.
  2. Believing that abuse is normal.
  3. Embarrassment and shame.
  4. Fear of being outed.
  5. Low self esteem.
  6. Love.
  7. Cultural and religious beliefs.
  8. Lack of money and resources.
  9. Disability

A part of emotional intelligence is being able to get yourself in a space of immense self awareness and self management. In this case it entails you being able to know if you are codependent or are stuck in a codependent relationship so that you can be able to know how to self manage yourself to get out of the relationship or cope in it.

Codependent people thrive on the feeling of being needed and helping others, it is their prime goal in any relationship. this means that they will go to almost any length to please their partners since they depend on their validation. Instead of praise, codependents often crave gratitude and a sense of “being needed.”

What is codependency

Basically codependency is a behavioral trait that is characterized by an individual enabling another individual in terms of their drug and substance abuse, poor mental health, gambling addiction, irresponsibility, or mediocrity. An enabler is a person who by their actions make it easier for a person to continue their self-destructive behavior by criticizing or rescuing. In a codependency relationship – one or both parties enable the other to act in certain unhealthy ways.

codependency is-

Codependency also involves an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.

You can imagine a codependent relationship, either you have been in one or know someone who is in one. The codependent people will often give excuses to the other person’s behaviors, their choices and actions. This is almost always true when it comes to abusive relationships.

The person with codependency may take on a “caretaker” role for their partner. Handling finances, doing all house chores, taking blame on behalf of the partner and allowing the partner to get away with certain behaviors that may otherwise be unacceptable.

The only way to help someone who is in such a relationship is to first identify the root cause of the codependency and then address it. Ultimately changing the situation is solely the codependent’s choice and there is nothing you can do to change someone who doesn’t want to change, that is why the first rule of recovery is always acceptance and willingness to change from the affected person.

The root causes of codependency

Your childhood follows you into adulthood

The relationship dynamic that you experienced as a kid is bound to follow you into adulthood. The power of an emotionally healthy childhood should be prime when it comes to raising children. The way we were treated and parented when we were kids had a tremendous effect on our mental health, personalities, behaviors and emotional well being.

When it comes to codependency, an emotionally unhealthy childhood is the root cause to a codependent trait.  This is characterized by a child who grows up in a home where their emotions are ignored or punished. This emotional neglect can give the child low self-esteem and shame. They may believe their needs are not worth attending to. Hence, they end up focusing on the needs of others in order to feel fulfilled and accepted.

A codependent person will do anything for the person who loves them, or claims to. They will go out of their way to do what it takes to keep that partner happy and always around them, this is what results into them entertaining bad behaviors and actions from their loved ones so long as they are still around.

The child may often fall into the role of a parent since the parents can’t do their job as they should due to neglect or addiction and work obsession. This may force the child to cook for the parents and themselves when the parents are intoxicated, do chores that would normally fall on the parents and mediate when domestic violence is present.

Also, a parent with narcissism may demand the child provide them praise and comfort.

Therefore, as a child, codependency starts as a form of survival. However, as the child enters into adulthood, the codependent trait becomes a hindrance into a healthy and functioning relationship. In an adult relationship, codependency is bound to be taken advantage of. And more often the codependent partner is the one who is bound to get hurt.

Almost 80 to 85 percent of all codependent people are women. This is the opposite of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder in which 80 to 85 percent of people with it are men.

This is so because women are socialized to be nice and kind, selfless, understanding, empathetic listeners, socially expected to have sole responsibility for keeping the couple and family relationships together, and to suppress their emotion needs and wants,  in order to nurture the emotional happiness and emotional well-being of their husband and children, and others in general.

root cause of codependency

If we’re honest, we will likely admit that most, if not all of our families, to some extent or another, have had parents that engage in some if not all of the dysfunctional practices of blaming, shaming, emotional detachment, scary and unsafe, manipulative, secretive, judgmental, inattentive and, unrealistic expectations for children.

Healthy relationships are based on partnership values and collaboration, not hierarchy and dominance. This is why before having a child you should clearly gauge your own sense of emotional intelligence and capacity to care for another being regardless of your own emotions, feelings and struggles.

It would be much better for you to become child free rather than subject a child to your own flaws and inadequacies as a parent.

Stephanie Lyn, a Life & Relationship Coach, dives deep into the concept of codependency, the fixer and the giver on her Youtube video below;

Signs and Symptoms of codependency

A person who is codependent build up their trait around helping other people and making sure that their partner gets what they want. This manifests in so many ways in their personalities and behavioral patterns;

Lack of boundaries

In a codependent relationship, the codependent person most often feels like the happiness of their partner is solely bound by them. This means that they will go to extreme ends to make sure thta their partner gets what may make them happy.

This also means that they will hide their true feelings and thoughts to make sure that they do not upset or chase away their loved ones.

Low self esteem

Having low self esteem basically means that you don’t value yourself that much, you feel like you are worthless and don’t have anything to offer. This may lead you to chase for validation and gratitude from your partner, hence codependent.

Hero complex

The need to always act like the savior and jump in to help someone out of a bind constantly.  If a loved one does something wrong, they will likely try to fix the situation on loved one’s behalf. Such behavior can prevent others from becoming independent or learning from their mistakes. It may also enable abuse or addiction to persist unchallenged.

A codependent person may regularly try to engineer the change of troubled, addicted, or under-functioning people whose problems are far bigger than their abilities to fix them.

Self sacrifice

Codependent partners are bound to for go their own desires and wants for the benefit and happiness of their lobed ones. They will deny themselves what is good for them for the happiness and satisfaction of their partner. This may result in regrets and bitterness over unrealized dreams, goals and desires.

They are also more prone to deny help and comfort from others because, to them. they believe that it is their responsibility and sole role to do the helpin.

They also won’t mind spending as much time and money as they can regardless of how broke they may end up being just to make someone else happy. This may be done at the risk of personal finance tragedies and debt related circumstances.

Have dysfunctional relationships

They are bound to attract low-functioning people looking for someone to take care of them so they can avoid adult responsibility or consequences, or attract people in perpetual crisis unwilling to change their lives.

This is why most people who have abusive relationships are mostly codependent.

9 ways to stop being codependent

As much as you may feel that being codependent gives you a sense of belonging and fulfillment, it is crucial to also remember that it is an unhealthy habit that is rooted on an unhealthy past and is bound to result in an unhealthy emotional future.

Your emotional intelligence should push you to a point of high self awareness and self management to help you deal with your level of codependency in such a way that it won’t affect your relationships and success.

9 ways to stop codependency

Here are 9 emotionally intelligent ways to help you stop being codependent;

Become more self aware

Self awareness is where happiness begins, by knowing who you are, your flaws and strength, you will know exactly what makes you happy, and how you will maximize on your strength and deal with your weakness.

I have talked before on how to develop self awareness, the steps are simple and straight forward;

  1. Know who you are; your personalities, emotional intelligent level and IQ – these are the corner stones to self realization and self knowledge. You can take a personality test (one of my favorite is from Truity.com -> take the test here) and many more to figure yourself out.
  2. Practice being who you are – focusing on maximizing on your strengths and building up where you are weak. Don’t get distracted by what people say and your own negative self talk.
  3. Be accountable and keep track of your emotions, mood, goals and dreams. Be mindful and keep yourself in check.

By being more self aware, you will get to see the effects and consequences of your codependency on others and yourself. This will help you know how your life revolves around the condition.

Accept that you are codependent

Acceptance is the first step to recovery. By accepting your codependency it means that you have seen the effects and the misery that it may bring to your life.

Accepting it will give you the strength and incentive to do something about it. Henceforth, learn about codependency, its root cause, effects, signs and symptoms and seek out how to overcome it.

Face your childhood

The only way to move on is to face your fears. Most codependent people rarely know they are codependent and even more so, less of them know the root cause of their codependency. They don’t know what specific childhood behaviors, traumas, and parenting that set a path for them to be in the condition they are in right now.

By knowing the cause of the problem, you can begin to reverse engineer your emotions and feelings towards being codependent and be able to fight it off.

Whatever it is – whether your parent neglected you, or put too much pressure on you, or was an addict, face it.

Know your worth

A major sign of codependent people is the low self esteem. The great things about the personality tests is that they point you towards your inner super powers. Before I took one of these personality tests, I was more or less unsure of myself and my abilities, but afterwards, I felt this immense confidence in my abilities, some of which I didn’t even know I had yet. That is why I always urge everyone to take the tests.

Your self esteem will improve if you get to know your worth, know who you are, your strengths will be clear to you once you start soul searching. You don’t need to go on a retreat or a discovery vacation to figure your shit out. All you need is to practice self awareness, be mindful and stay true to who you are. Pretty simple.

Get rid of the hero complex

Saving others isn’t your job, it is good to be charitable and empathetic to other people’s suffering and problems. You should thrive to help as many people as you can. Bu you should bare in mind that it is not your sole responsibility to save someone at all times. You need to let people help themselves. Someone once said, “God helps those who help themselves”

Get rid of the hero complex and stop basing other people’s gratitude as your sense of fulfillment. Help yourself first, and maybe you may be strong enough to help others.

God helps those who help themselves

Set boundaries

BY having a relationship in which you don’t allow yourselves to go above certain limits to help each other, you will foster a healthy dependency on individual skills and prowess in tackling life’s problems. This way, you will have limits on what you can share with each other, and how involved you allow yourselves to be in each other’s lives.

Spend more time by yourself

When you are codependent, you base your life around helping other people. This will be cut off when you start spending more time with yourself and less around people who you may be tempted to care for obsessively.

Isolate yourself from these relationships from time to time to get a little bit of perspective on who you are as a person and what you want. Thus, helping you prioritize your wants more often.

Know the truth about happiness.

When it comes to happiness, one thing should always remain clear in your mind – that happiness is a personal responsibility that everyone needs to undertake instead of putting it on someone else or something else. Happiness is a personal responsibility, you can’t make another person happy.

Will Smith explained it so well in one of his Instagram stories;

Go to therapy

Sometimes what we go through can be too overwhelming for any of us to handle by ourselves. Therapy is a good way to unwind your misery and suffering in a safe and open space without any judgement.

If you feel so overwhelmed with what codependency is doing to you then I would highly recommend you seek professional help to help you through.

Some of you may be reluctant to go to therapy because of the cost and the uncomfortable nature of the whole disclosing your personal stuff onto someone else. Don’t worry, with the introduction of online therapy platforms, you will get to stay anonymous if you want and get excellent services for cheaper prices as compared to the face to face sessions.

For an online therapy session I would recommend you try Online-Therapy.Com. They have great resources ranging from mental illness to personality disorders. They have a team of therapists, doctors and practitioners from all over the world dedicated to counselling and helping you through your struggles. Moreover, they charge less with up to 20% off discounts, its amazing. Check them out to learn more.


  1. Codependency and Addiction: How Drug Addiction Affects Relationships. Retrieved from American Addiction Centres.
  2. Why Do People Stay in Abusive Relationships?. Retrieved from The Hotline.
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About author
I'm a psychology enthusiast and a fried chicken lover. I write bite sized articles unpacking the complexities of the human mind. The mission is to advocate for what's more important in life - the pursuit of the truth and the highest good one can do with that truth - for themselves, the people around them and the society as a whole.
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