"Characteristics of Co-dependents and The Co-dependent Personality"

Modified from Schaef (1986)



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  • 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
  • Denial

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Diagnostic Criteria

  • 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.

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Co-dependent personality


Interpersonal:
  • 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

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Roles Adopted:


  • Rescuer:

  • protecting/covering for the addicted person by making excuses absences or social mistakes


  • Care Taker:

  • minimizes negative consequences in addicted person's chemical dependency


  • Joiner:

  • rationalizing or participating/assisting in addicted person's chemical dependency


  • Hero:

  • protecting the family's public image/draw attention away from the addiction with enormous/ "superhuman"/self-sacrificing efforts


  • Adjuster:

  • avoiding discussion of the addiction in hopes it will disappear, hiding concern and confusion with apathy


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    Family:


    • 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

    Caretaking:


    • 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

    Self-Image:
    • 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


    Affects:
    • 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".

    Cognitions:
  • 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

Behavior:
  • Physical, sexual, psychological abuse and neglect
  • "addictive" behavior: eating disorders, substance abuse,
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Acting out for attention or approval


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Other:
  • 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.


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