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What is Emotional Codependency? Symptoms and Treatment

Emotionally codependent relationships are not healthy or balanced. In fact, some may even be toxic. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and correct them as soon as possible. With that in mind, we want to tell you what emotional codependency involves, as well as some of the symptoms and how its treated.

What is Emotional Codependency?

While the terms are very interrelated, codependency isn’t the same as emotional dependence. Indeed, in the case of emotional dependence, we find individuals whose dysfunctional personality drives them to depend on others to be happy.

These people are capable of carrying on relationships that are highly toxic and destructive because they depend completely on their partners. In other words, they consider their partners to be an indispensable part of their lives, a necessary condition, no matter how bad the relationship is. So, these individuals are not autonomous and they typically have low self-esteem.

Emotional codependency, on the other hand, is different. In this case, we find people that are dependent on other people’s dependence on them. In other words, they are addicted to the dependency of others on them.

This type of dysfunctional relationship can occur in any relational context (parents/children, friendships, etc). However, it’s especially common among couples.

In any case, in relationships that are dependent and codependent, we’re talking about individuals that depend on one another. However, we’re looking at two different dynamics.

On the one hand, dependent individuals don’t know how to get along without their partners. On the other hand, those who experience emotional codependency are addicted to having someone else be dependent on them.

Therefore, this can cause them to care excessively for their partners. As tender as this may sound, their motives are not altruistic, but rather manipulative. Therefore, excessive control, jealousy, and manipulation may arise in an unbalanced and toxic relationship.

As a result, both parties suffer.

Symptoms of Emotional Codependency

Low self-esteem – Codependent individuals have low self-esteem, just as their dependent partners do. However, in this case, they aim to fill this void or imbalance by trying to feel useful for the person who they believe needs them.

Control over partners – Given that their own stability is based on someone else needing them, codependent individuals tend to do whatever they can to maintain this dependence.

Therefore, it’s normal for them to constantly control their partners, manipulate them, and even undermine their self-esteem. By doing so, they make sure that their partners continue needing them and depending on them.

Need for approval – Codependent individuals put a great deal of time and effort into being useful for their partners. Therefore, when they don’t get their way or aren’t rewarded for their efforts, they can come to feel truly frustrated.

The fear that their partners will stop depending on them increases when they don’t get the thanks they’re looking for. In other words, they begin to feel doubtful and insecure. Therefore, they need to hear their partners say how great they are and recognize all that they do for them. They need to hear how necessary they are in their partner’s life.

Furthermore, if this approval doesn’t exist, they may even enter into an unhealthy punishment dynamic for their partners to understand that they’re essential.

Codependent people feel responsible for the feelings of others – Codependent people also suffer. The truth is, no one is responsible for the feelings of another person. However, emotional codependency causes individuals to feel that they are responsible for what their partners are feeling.

Therefore, they may take ownership of their partner’s feelings and feel truly frustrated when they can’t make them happy. Let’s not forget that their objective is to be essential in the life and well-being of their partners. In that sense, they see any negative feelings in their partners as a possible threat to their dependency.

Obsessing over their partners – These individuals depend on the dependence of others to maintain their self-esteem and fill their void. As a result, they constantly seek out ways to maintain this dependency and need. That means that they may spend a lot of time thinking of ways to be necessary and useful, which can lead to an obsession.

In fact, on many occasions, they forget about themselves and neglect their own needs. Their only priority is proving how necessary they are and making their partners dependent.

Treatment for Codependency

A toxic relationship between a dependent person and a codependent person needs intervention as soon as possible. In this sense, both parties need to relearn and redirect the way that they behave and relate to others. What’s more, they must make a great effort to increase their assertiveness and self-esteem and leave their fears and insecurities behind.

They can achieve this through personalized therapy as well as couples therapy.

  • The first step in the process is recognizing that there’s a problem. If an individual can’t see the problem, then it will be impossible to fix it.
  • Then, codependent individuals must overcome their fear of being alone. They must overcome their fear of independence and of not being needed by others. In this sense, they must give up their excessive involvement and concern for changing, controlling, and satisfying others.
  • What’s more, codependent people must relearn how to be helpful. They need to understand that help and care should come from genuine altruism and not be a means of manipulating others to fill their own (often hidden) needs. Helping others should be an act of liberation, not a hidden attempt to make others more dependent.
  • Normally, people with codependent personalities learn this type of behavior and attitude from the time they are children. Therefore, they must begin a process of analysis, self-awareness, and correction regarding the erroneous lessons they learned early on in life.
  • At the same time, both partners must learn to set limits, which are a necessary part of any healthy relationship.


People with codependent tendencies need to understand that relationships should be based on a bond of freedom and personal choice. Trying to “bind” another person by making him or her feel like we’re essential to their happiness will only lead to problems.

At the same time, it’s not a healthy way to increase one’s own self-esteem.

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