“I don’t know. What do you think?” This question almost always elicits an eye roll from my husband after he has asked me my opinion about something. It could be something as simple as choosing a restaurant for dinner or which car to buy. I just can’t seem to make a decision without asking his opinion, and he’s not always a big fan of having to be the “decider.”
While I knew this personality trait was sometimes an obstacle in my marriage, I didn’t realize that it was actually something that qualifies me as being codependent.
The term codependent has been around for a while. It came about during the alcohol and drug recovery movement, and described someone who was in an unhealthy relationship with someone battling an addiction. But the term has evolved over time, and now refers to someone who is passive and needs constant approval from others.
Here are some signs you might have a codependent personality:
- You have difficulty identifying what you’re feeling.
- You have difficulty explaining what you’re experiencing emotionally.
- You minimize your own feelings or ideas.
- You have difficulty making decisions or functioning independently.
- You have to “check” with your significant other or others to make decisions.
- You don’t feel worthy of help from others.
- You don’t accept praise from others.
For me, the inability to make a decision is sometimes an annoying personality trait, but Scott & White psychologist David Blackburn, PhD, said being codependent isn’t necessarily dangerous unless it is taken to the extreme.
“Sometimes these folks get involved with very unhealthy relationships,” Dr. Blackburn said. “If their goal in life is to be in a relationship with this person, then a lot of times it puts them in a vulnerable position. It allows them to be controlled, and in some extreme cases, even abused.”
But despite the negative connotations associated with being codependent, there are some positives.
“These folks are very helpful people. They’ll give you the shirt off their back,” the psychologist said. “It becomes a problem when they lose themselves in a relationship and they have no sense of self.”
If you find yourself on the extreme end of the codependency spectrum, Dr. Blackburn said the first step is realizing you need some help.
“That’s a tough one. A lot of times these folks are so focused on the other person that they don’t focus on their issues,” the doctor said. “It takes time for them to experience being alone.”
And once you realize you need help, help is available. Whether you choose individual therapy or a co-dependent support group, choosing to focus on yourself is the most important part.
To learn more about codependent personality or to speak with a physician, visit Baylor Scott & White Health.