Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence

The following checklist is offered as a tool to aid in self-evaluation. It may be particularly helpful to newcomers as they begin to understand codependency. It may aid those who have been in recovery a while to determine what traits still need attention and transformation.

Denial Patterns

Codependents often...

  • Have difficulty identifying what they are feeling
  • Minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel.
  • Perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well- being of others
  • Lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
  • Label others with their negative traits.
  • Think they can take care of themselves without any help from others.
  • Mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
  • Express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways.
  • Do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom they are attracted.

Low Self-esteem Patterns

Codependents often...

  • Have difficulty making decisions.
  •  Judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough.
  • Are embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts.
  • Value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own.
  • Do not perceive themselves as lovable or worthwhile persons.
  • Seek recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than.
  • Have difficulty admitting a mistake.
  • Need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good.
  • Are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want.
  • Perceive themselves as superior to others.
  • Look to others to provide their sense of safety.
  • Have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects.
  • Have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries.

Compliance Patterns

Codependents often...

  • Are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
  • Compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
  • Put aside their own interests in order to do what others want.
  • Are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings.
  • Are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
  • Accept sexual attention when they want love.
  • Make decisions without regard to the consequences.
  • Give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.

Control Patterns

Codependents often...

  • Believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
  • Attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel.
  • Freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
  • Become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.
  • Lavish gifts and favors on those they want to influence.
  • Use sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance.
  • Have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others.
  • Demand that their needs be met by others.
  • Use charm and charisma to convince others of their capacity to be caring and compassionate.
  • Use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally.
  • Refuse to cooperate, compromise, or negotiate.
  • Adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
  • Use recovery jargon in an attempt to control the behavior of others.
  • Pretend to agree with others to get what they want.

Avoidance Patterns

Codependents often...

  • Act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them.
  • Judge harshly what others think, say, or do.
  • Avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance.
  • Allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships.
  • Use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation.
  • Diminish their capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use the tools of recovery.
  • Suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable.
  • Pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away.
  • Refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves.
  • Believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness.
  • Withhold expressions of appreciation.

The Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence may not be reprinted or republished without the express written consent of Co-Dependents Anonymous, Inc.
This document may be reprinted from the website (CoDA) for use by members of the CoDA Fellowship.

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