12 Minutes

Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Codependency is sometimes known as “relationship addiction” or “love addiction.” Our anguish and inner emptiness are eased when we focus on others, but when we ignore ourselves, it just gets worse. This habit develops into a self-perpetuating, circular system with a life of its own. Despite negative repercussions, our thought can become obsessive, and our conduct can become compulsive. Calling a partner or ex you know you shouldn’t, putting yourself or your morals at danger to appease someone, or spying out of envy or fear are just a few examples. 

The ultimate goal of codependency rehabilitation is to become a self-sufficient person. Knowing, appreciating, and trusting yourself, as well as expressing yourself in your personal life and relationships, are all part of this. It involves a full transformation that affects your beliefs, as well as how you feel, think, and act.

Untreated codependency has the same persistent, widespread decline as alcoholism and a systematic disease, which is why some people consider it an illness. The evolution of codependency symptoms and indicators of recovery is outlined below.

Codependency has been labeled as an addiction because of this. This addiction was declared to be a disease in 1956. In all situations, the goal was to de-stigmatize the illnesses and promote treatment.

A 180-degree change in the vicious pattern of codependency is what it takes to get back in touch with, praise, and respond from your core self. The following features of personality emerge as a result of recovery:

  • Authenticity
  • Autonomy
  • Capability of being intimate
  • Integral and consistent values, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors

Change is difficult. It takes patience and involves the four fundamental stages discussed below:


Recovery from codependency requires abstinence or sobriety. The idea is to refocus your attention on yourself, to have an internal “locus of control” rather than an external one. This indicates that your behaviors are driven mostly by your own ideals, needs, and feelings, rather than those of others. You figure out how to address their needs in a healthy manner.

Perfect sobriety or abstinence isn’t required for improvement, and it’s unattainable when it comes to human codependency. Because you rely on others, you must give and sacrifice in relationships. Instead of abstinence, you begin to detach from others and stop trying to control, satisfy, or obsess about them. You become more independent and self-directed.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with an addict or abuser, or if you grew up with one, you may be terrified of upsetting your partner, and breaking that pattern of giving our control to someone else can take a lot of guts.


Denial is thought to be the essence of addiction. This stands true whether you’re an addict or in a relationship with someone. Codependents ignore not just their own addictions – whether to drugs, activities, or people – but also their needs and desires, especially emotional needs for real intimacy and nurturing.

You may have grown up in a home that didn’t nurture you, didn’t respect your thoughts and feelings and didn’t meet your emotional needs appropriately. You learned to suppress your wants and feelings over time, believing that you were incorrect, rather than face rejection or judgment. Some chose to become self-sufficient, while others sought solace in food, sex, drugs, or labor.

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All of this contributes to low self-esteem. To change your detrimental habits, you must first recognize them. Negative self-talk is the most destructive barrier to self-esteem. Many people aren’t aware of their inner voices — their “Perfectionist,” “Pusher,”  and “Critic” — that drive and condemn them.


Self-acceptance is at the heart of healing. This isn’t just a step; it’s a journey that will last a lifetime. People go to therapy hoping to transform themselves, but they don’t realize that the process is really about embracing oneself. Ironically, you must accept the situation before you can change. “What you oppose endures,” as they say.

In recovery, you learn more about yourself, which demands acceptance, and life itself provides limitations and losses that must be accepted. This is what maturity looks like. Accepting reality allows new possibilities to emerge. Then things start to change. New thoughts and energy arise, which were previously stifled by self-blame and resistance to reality. Instead of making yourself feel worse when you’re unhappy, lonely, or guilty, you have self-compassion, comfort yourself, and take efforts to feel better.

You don’t have to satisfy everyone because you’re afraid people won’t like you if you embrace yourself. You are tolerant of yourself and others, and you respect your needs and unpleasant sensations. You can be self-reflective without even being self-critical if you have compassion toward yourself. As your confidence and self-esteem rise, you become less tolerant of others abusing you or telling you what to do. You become more honest and assertive, and you are capable of more intimacy, rather than manipulating.


Without action, insight will only bring you so far. Self-awareness and acceptance must be followed with new behavior in order to evolve. This entails taking chances and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Speaking up, trying something new, going somewhere alone, or establishing a boundary are all possibilities. It also entails establishing internal boundaries by honoring promises to yourself or saying “no” to your Critic or other undesirable old habits. Instead of expecting people to supply all of your wants and bring you happiness, you learn to meet them yourself and do activities that bring you joy and contentment.

You learn new things about yourself and your needs and desires every time you try out a new habit or take a risk. You’re developing a more positive self-image, as well as self-esteem and self-confidence. In contrast to the downhill trajectory of codependency, which causes greater dread, depression, and low self-esteem, this produces a positive feedback loop.

In the Early Stage Codependency

Codependency begins with a strong attachment to another person and progresses to an inappropriate reliance on that person. The early stage of recovery concludes when you start to reclaim yourself.

The Disease Progression. You may be drawn to a needy individual or be overly engaged with a family member, and you will instinctively want to serve or please them. Subsequently, you get more emotionally attached to and preoccupied with that person, to the point where you lose sight of yourself and begin to abandon personal relationships and hobbies.

Codependency in its Early Stage. The following are some of the characteristics of codependency in the early stage:

  • Attracted to a needy individual and offers assistance, presents, and meals.
  • Make an effort to gratify the person.
  • Obsessed with the individual and his or her actions
  • Doubt and rationalize your own perceptions.
  • Denial regarding addiction, codependency, or relationship issues, but growing worry
  • Abandon your own activities in order to spend time with the person.
  • Affects social and family life
  • Increasingly reliant on the other person emotionally

The Process Of Recovery. You’ve come out of denial, which implies you’ve faced the situation head-on and accepted reality, which is a precondition for change. This transition could have been sparked by someone else’s recovery, by reading a book, or, more likely, by an experience – an awakening or wake-up call, sometimes known as hitting rock bottom — that forced change. You accept the facts as tough and painful, but true, rather than ignoring or downplaying them. You don’t have to agree with them, but you must accept them for what they are.

Getting knowledge and seeking treatment is the first step toward recovery. You’ve already started looking for fresh answers and possibilities by reading this book. Most people begin therapy or a 12-Step program, which provides hope and begins the process of reclaiming their identity.

Recovery in its Early Stage. The following are some of the characteristics of recovery in the early stage:

  • Hitting rock bottom and start seeking help
  • Study about addiction and codependency.
  • Participate in a 12-step program and/or treatment.
  • Begin to believe in yourself.
  • Come out of your shell.
  • Educate yourself on the need for self-recovery.
  • Start focusing on yourself
  • Begin to form your own identity.

In the Middle Stage Codependency

Denial, painful feelings and obsessive-compulsive behavioral patterns are common in the intermediate stage of codependency and recovery. While beginning to feel more out of control, you strengthen your efforts to increase control. You rediscover freedom, equilibrium, and better peace of mind once you’re in recovery.

The Disease Progression. Isolation and denial persist without support, and problems worsen. You may ignore and hide difficult aspects of your relationships from yourself and others, as well as retreat from outside hobbies and friends. Nonetheless, your preoccupation with the addiction or relationship, as well as the stress, hatred, and guilt that goes along with it, grows. You help, encourage, and manage the other individual or the addiction more, and you may even take up their tasks. Some people with this condition turn to drugs, spending, food, or other addictive behaviors to cope with mood changes and conflicts.

Codependency in the Middle Stage. The following are some of the characteristics of codependency in the middle stage:

  • Deny/minimize the relationship’s painful features
  • Hide challenging parts of your relationship from others.
  • Anxiety, remorse, and self-blame are all on the rise.
  • Self-esteem deteriorates
  • Withdraw from friends and family outside of your immediate circle.
  • Strong obsession and/or addiction in the individual
  • Attempt to exert authority by blaming, nagging, scolding, and manipulating.
  • Angry and disappointed as a result of violated promises
  • Resentment at not being able to manage the individual
  • Increasing conflict and aggression, as well as mood swings
  • Ensure that the other person’s responsibilities are met by enabling, accommodating, and managing them.
  • Keep a family secret hidden (conflict, addiction, personality disorder)
  • To compensate, use alcohol, food, shopping, drugs, and work.

The Process Of Recovery. The majority of the healing work takes place in the intermediate stage. You start to practice non-attachment and recognize your impotence in the face of others and your addiction. Self-awareness, self-responsibility, and self-examination, which are all components of therapy and 12-Step programs, increase as the focus on oneself rises. Alcoholics Anonymous highlights the importance of strict self-honesty as a cornerstone to recovery for alcoholics.

This is also true for codependents, and this is one of the 12 Steps of CoDA, which are based on the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Blaming others and situations for your happiness robs you of your ability to change and attain happiness. Even if you’re a victim of violence, shifting the center of power from the offender to yourself gives you the capacity to change your situation. Dealing with childhood difficulties that contributed to your codependency is also part of self-examination.

Although understanding your behavior is important, it isn’t enough to change it. During the Middle Stage, you must make decisions, take acts, and take risks. They happen when you’re ready, not when you’re not. Even when you know things will get better — like getting a better job or relocating to a more desirable neighborhood — it’s difficult to change, but taking chances where the result is uncertain demands courage – courage to travel from familiar discomfort into unfamiliar territory. This is one of the reasons why assistance is so important.

You acquire new acquaintances, engage in outside events, learn to be assertive, and set limits throughout the intermediate period. You take better care of yourself as you grow more emotionally resilient, and your sensitivity, facilitating, and manipulative behavior decreases.

Recovery in the Middle Stages. The following are some of the characteristics of recovery in the middle stage:

  • Recognize your weakness.
  • Self-awareness develops.
  • Begin to place your faith in a spiritual source.
  • Begin to distance yourself from the situation.
  • Make new acquaintances
  • Develop extracurricular activities
  • Putting an end to controlling and enabling
  • Become more assertive.
  • Take charge of your own destiny.
  • Boost your self-esteem and self-care.
  • Sets limits and is less reactive.
  • More emotional self-reliance
  • Heal the wounds of childhood

In the Late-Stage Codependency

The difference between disease and health is most obvious in the late stages of codependency and recovery. The universe of the untreated codependent has contracted greatly, and his or her health and functionality have deteriorated significantly, whereas the world of the recovered codependent has broadened to encompass increased risk-taking, relationships, and new aspirations.

The Disease Progression. Anger and confrontations become more common as the condition advances, and self-care and self-esteem continue to deteriorate. Desperation, loneliness, and depression are the dominant emotions. Codependency’s continuous stress causes new symptoms like stress-related health challenges and new or more sophisticated obsessive-compulsive behaviors and addictions. Frequent checking up on the addict, enabling, affairs, cleaning home, exercising, dieting, spending, or using legal or illegal narcotics are examples of these behaviors and addictions.

Codependency in its later stages. The following are some of the characteristics of codependency in the late stage:

  • This is the final stage in the evolution of codependency if no intervention is sought.
  • Develop physiologic signs and symptoms
  • Feeling enraged, despondent, and downcast
  • Addictions, obsessive-compulsive behavior
  • Self-esteem continues to deteriorate.
  • Depression and a lack of self-care
  • A rise in disputes

The Process of Recovery. Your confidence and self-esteem return as you near the end of your recuperation. You are more open, creative, and spontaneous, and you are more empowered to follow your own ambitions. For the pure thrill and freedom of it, you want to totally express yourself. As your attention changes away from someone other than yourself, you realize that your pleasure is not dependent on others, and you no longer feel compelled to stay in a relationship. Simultaneously, you want for and are more capable of genuine intimacy.

Late Stage of Recovery. The following are some of the characteristics of recovery in the late stage:

  • If you continue with recovery, you’ll enjoy these benefits.
  • Happiness is not reliant on the actions of others.
  • Self-esteem and self-assurance are restored.
  • Possess personal power and set goals for yourself.
  • Are ebullient, innovative, and enthusiastic
  • Self-nurturing and Self-love are felt.
  • Take pleasure in interdependence and connection.

Codependency recovery necessitates constant maintenance, whether in or out of a relationship. This is why many stay in 12-Step programs after they’ve been clean from an addict or addiction. The adjustments and skills of recovery and health become a part of you only after a few years.



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