"Characteristics of Co-dependents and The Co-dependent Personality"
Modified from Schaef (1986)
- 1. External referencing: distrusting own perceptions, lacking boundaries, believing one cannot survive without a relationship/addicted to relationships, fearing abandonment, believing in the perfect union.
- 2. Caretaking: become indispensable, become a martyr
- 3. Self-centeredness: personalizing all events, assuming responsibility for other's behavior.
- 4. Over-controlling: increasing control efforts when chaos increases, attempting to control everything and everyone, controlling without caring for those controlled, believing that with more effort you can fix the addict/family.
- 5. Feelings: unaware of feelings, distorting emotional experiences/accepting only acceptable feelings, fearfulness.
- 6. Dishonesty: managing all impressions made, omitting/lying about the truth, rigidity.
- 7. Gullibility: being a bad judge of character, unwillingness to confront, over-trusting, accepting what fits the way on wishes the way things were.
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Lay symptoms of Co-dependence
- Changing who you are to please others
- Feeling responsible for meeting other people's needs at the expense of your own
- Low self-esteem
- Driven by compulsions
- a) Continued investment of self-esteem in the ability to influence/control feelings and behavior, both in oneself and in others, in the face of serious adverse consequences.
- b) Assumption of responsibility for meeting other's needs, to the exclusion of acknowledging one's needs.
- c) Anxiety and boundary distortions around intimacy and separation.
- d) Enmeshment in relationships with personality-disordered, chemically dependent, and impulse-disordered individuals.
- e) Exhibits at least three of the following:
- 1. Excessive reliance on denial
- 2. Constriction of emotions (with or without dramatic outbursts)
- 3. Depression
- 4. Hypervigilance
- 5. Compulsions
- 6. Anxiety
- 7. Substance Abuse
- 8. Recurrent victim of physical or sexual abuse
- 9. Stress-related medical illness
- 10. Has remained in a primary relationship with an active abuser for at least two years without seeking outside support.
- Unassertive, does not pursue own rights, adapts rather than changing a bad situation
- Submission to others for predictability/security, self-sacrificing
- Oversensitive to others' difficulties
- Puts up a front, hides "true self"
- Withdraws, isolates, loneliness
- Care Taker:
- Extreme family loyalty
- Family rules: "Don't talk, don't trust, don't feel"
- Distorted family image: happy, no problems, see only the good
- Over-developed sense of responsibility and concern for others
- Control is valued, lack of control is terrifying, order,
- stability, routine, regularity, peace, not chaos
- Only superficial relationships, no intimate ones as equality/ equivalence is required for justice
- Excessive caretaking/dependency especially when stressed, undeserved loyalty
- Over-responsible/over-reliable (to compensate for the addict's irresponsibility), anticipate other's needs ("enabling"), need to control people and situations, rigidity
- Denial: ignore/rationalize/minimize problem, denies increased substance abuse
- Loss of daily structure: missing appointments, having meals at irregular times, not getting to bed or up on time
- Fails to complete tasks, follow through, make plans, easily overwhelmed with tasks, reactive not proactive
- Crisis orientation not long term, good in crisis situation/ beginnings and endings but not in middles
- Low self-esteem: self blame for any problem/other's substance use, guilt-prone, shame and guilt, "I'm bad/no good",
- Extreme/unproductive self criticism/flagellation, assumption of blame due to inconsistency of parental behavior
- Insecurity, low self-esteem, fear/belief in one's unloveability/ insanity/badness/dirtiness, Powerlessness
- Shame at addiction, secretive, very reluctant to ask for help Acts in a way they believe normal, doesn't know what is normal behavior, emotional responses
- Anxious over not feeling/acting sufficiently "normal", feel different from anyone else you know
- Adopts extreme role models and standards which would be acceptable to a group with low self-esteem
- Depression, negativity, uncontrollable mood swings, no fun in life,
- dulled feeling, alexethymia, anhedonia, or enjoy only when at someone else's expense,
- seriousness life as series of problems and crises to be solved, tasks to be done
- worry is normal,
- frequent resentments and anger, "Got a raw deal".
- Obsessive thinking, overreliance on analytical thinking, perfectionism
- Delusions/Irrational beliefs: Amor omnia vincit (or at least substance abuse)
- Dishonest, lies, denial, unaware of dishonesty (behavior)
- is not the "real person"
- Low memory of childhood
protecting/covering for the addicted person by making excuses absences or social mistakes
minimizes negative consequences in addicted person's chemical dependency
rationalizing or participating/assisting in addicted person's chemical dependency
protecting the family's public image/draw attention away from the addiction with enormous/ "superhuman"/self-sacrificing efforts
avoiding discussion of the addiction in hopes it will disappear, hiding concern and confusion with apathy
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- Physical, sexual, psychological abuse and neglect
- "addictive" behavior: eating disorders, substance abuse,
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Acting out for attention or approval
- Health problems: stress related disorders, lack of personal care
- Became addicted to cope with frustration and pain
- Neglected attention in childhood, "stroke starved", leads to denial of own needs
Source: The Clinician's Thesaurus 3 - The Guide Book for Wording Psychological Reports and Other Evaluations, Third Edition, Revised, Edward L. Zuckerman, Ph. D.