Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Codependency and Borderline Personality Disorder Part 2: Symptoms

How can you tell if you are codependent? There are many, many symptoms of codependency. I didn’t come up with this list, in fact I found the write up for most of this here. I will take a look at how I think these things line up with my life though. So let’s take a look at some of them shall we:


Care taking: the codependent individual feels responsible for other people. S/He feels anxious and even guilty when another has a problem. S/He feels compelled to help that person solve their problem. S/He anticipates the other's needs and feels angry when his help is not effective or rebuffed. At the same time, the codependent feels slighted that others won't help her/him out when s/he needs help. However, this same individual who is constantly doing way too much for others, and not getting "any" help from anyone, will usually answer when asked what is wrong or what do you need, responds, "Oh, nothing." The codependent minimizes his/her own worth. The codependent is his/her own worst enemy.

I can definitely see myself having a lot of these codependent care taking traits. Wouldn’t you feel slighted if you helped someone out constantly and they didn’t reciprocate at all?

The codependent is over committed, harried, pressured, feels safe when giving, but insecure when someone gives to him/her, goes out of her/his way to help others, and believes deep inside that other people are responsible for the way they are and will blame others for the "spot" they are in. Others make them feel the way they feel, they are victimized, angry, unappreciated, and used. Others are driving them crazy.

Over committed, harried, pressured, feels safe when giving: Check. I’m not at all insecure when people give something to me. In fact I usually keep these things around me to help with my lack of object constancy. I do feel weird when someone goes out of their way for me, but I think that’s more because I’m so unused to it and also detached from my emotions that I don’t always know how to respond properly. ::laughs:: Believes deep inside…. No no, I believe right up on the surface there that most people are responsible for the “spot” they’re in. I can absolutely recognize and accept when people have been truly taken advantage of and given a bum lot in life, but ultimately we are responsible for our own lives, choices, and actions. I may have been born and abused into this slew of mental health disaster, but it’s my responsibility to do something about it.

Others are driving me crazy. Hah! True.

Low Self Worth: codependents tend to come from troubled, dysfunctional families, and will deny this to the very end. They blame themselves for their family's shortcomings. They blame themselves for everything. They pick on themselves constantly: not intelligent enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not athletic enough, not good enough. But if another criticizes them, boy do they get defensive and angry, not to mention self-righteous. Don't try to give a codependent a compliment; they reject all compliments and praise, even though they get depressed from lack of compliments and praise. They feel "different" from the rest of the world. They reject themselves, but fear rejection. Everything is taken personally, they love being the victim (though will deny it with their last breath). They have been victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, abandonment, neglect, and/or alcoholism. They feel like victims, carry lots of guilt and shame, and think their lives are not worth living. They should have done this, should have done that. They "should" themselves to death. Codependents say, "Why me?" on the outside, and know "why me" on the inside. While trying to prove to others that they are good enough, to themselves they feel worthless and empty.

My self-worth fluxuates with my mood or to be perfectly honest, my body image. My self-worth is entirely dependent on how I perceive myself and this ties in immensely to my dysmorphic issues and my personal accomplishments. Whether anyone else recognizes what I do or not does not raise or lower my self worth. In fact, having my achievements recognized often makes me feel awkward because I don’t want the attention.  I am very hard on myself, I do put myself down, but this is due to my perfectionistic nature. Criticisms will make me spin down emotionally because it is a recognition that someone else has seen my flaws. I raise and lower my self-worth. I can usually take compliments. Compliments from women I take sincerely. Compliments from men that I’m involved with I take sincerely (especially if we’re already sleeping together because it’s not like they have to butter me up to get what they want now). Compliments from men I am not close to or strangers, does make me question their motives. Big time.  This has been proven to be an issue though and I don’t know if it’s just me being paranoid or me being justified. Maybe a bit of both, but it doesn’t mean that I’m wrong to question peoples motives. I do feel “different” from the rest of my world, but I actually am different than most people I know. Life is definitely worth living even if it sucks sometimes. I do “should” myself to death sometimes but I do this regardless of whether something is just for me or not.  “Why me?”…if I know it on the inside than that’s all there is to it. 

Repression: most codependents repress their own needs, their own desires. They are afraid to let themselves be who they are and often appear rigid and controlled. They repress all thoughts of self-worth out of their awareness and they are full of guilt. Codependents cannot have fun.

I definitely repress my own needs and desires in order to take care of those around me first, but that falls into the care-taking category. If it’s just me on my own I don’t do this. If I need something I definitely go ahead and take care of whatever it is. Growing up and until a year or two ago I felt guilty about getting myself anything that I desired, but I’ve pretty well taken care of that at this point. I can definitely have fun too.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: codependents worry. They worry about the slightest and silliest things (True): they worry that people are talking about them (False); they worry that people are not talking about them (False); they lose sleep over little things (True); they check up on others (Rarely); they try to catch people in the act (Only if I know I’m being used, manipulated, taken advantage of or plotted against. i.e. Evil-Ex); they never find any answers (False), they focus on other's problems (True); they spend money compulsively (I make some compulsive decisions but only if all my bills and responsibilities are taken care of first); eat or drink compulsively (True) ; and wonder why they have no energy and why they never get anything done (I get so much done it’s ridiculous).

My OCD tendencies have nothing to do with codependency and everything with needing structure and control in my life. I’m not even sure how most of these things qualify as OCD.

Controlling Behaviors: codependents try to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation, or domination. They are afraid to let people be who they are or let events happen naturally. They've lived in so many situations in which they had no control (abuse, alcoholism, etc) that they now try to control everything and get frustrated and angry when they cannot. They end up feeling controlled by events. They feel controlled by others. They resist change as if change were a contagion.

This is one thing I’m pretty happy to say that I don’t do. When I was younger and Acted Out I definitely had more manipulative tendencies that I would consider controlling behavior. After Evil-Ex though, I learned to let go. With him I definitely felt the need to control a lot of things, but he was actually working to make my life spin out of control. I don’t hold onto things as hard anymore.  I do resist change. Change is hard. Especially when it comes fast it can destabilize me, but I don’t know if that is codependent so much as normal. The most zen of Buddhist monks will never have a problem with change, but everyone gets thrown for a loop when things change unexpectedly. I used to fight change tooth and nail. I’ve learned to adapt and move with change as much as I can though.  The only person I am compulsive about controlling, is myself.

No matter how you look at it, this just isn't going to work.
Denial: codependents ignore problems or pretend they do not exist. They pretend things are not as bad as they are; they tell themselves it will get better; they stay busy to avoid thinking about things; they get confused, sick, depressed and visit doctors for a prescription. Many are workaholics. They lie to themselves and others. They believe their lies. And most of all, codependents will leave a healthy situation (by lying to themselves that it was an unhealthy situation) and get back into an unhealthy situation; though for the most part, most codependents either never leave an unhealthy situation/relationship, or they go from one unhealthy situation/relationship to another.

Denial is one place I’ve struggled with, but it’s always been a wanting to believe something even though I knew it to be otherwise. Even when I was with Evil-Ex I knew the truth of my situation, but my emotions were in such complete opposition that I couldn’t reconcile the two. That’s what made it more maddening for me. I saw the reality but felt a different way. I’m very good at seeing what is actually going on. Making a decision in opposition to my emotions though can be difficult for me. There were times I wanted to believe his lies, but I didn’t actually believe his lies.

Dependency: codependents do not feel happy or content with themselves. They look to others to supply them their happiness or their needs. They are threatened by the loss of anything or any person that provides them with their happiness.

They do NOT love themselves. They did not feel loved by their parents. They equate love with pain and believe others are never, ever there for them. They need people more than they want them; their lives revolve around someone else's life; they tolerate abuse; feel trapped; leave one bad relationship and jump into another bad relationship. They wonder if they will ever find true love. And if they do find true love, they will leave that and find a loveless relationship because deep inside (often beneath consciousness) they feel unworthy of love.

Hm. I don’t expect or think anyone else can make me happy. I do know that I am happier when I am with people I care about and enjoy the company of. Left alone for long periods of time (days, weeks, months) I do sink into a depression greater than usual. To me this doesn’t seem unreasonable though. Who wants to be forever alone? Some people I’m sure, but that strikes me as more unnatural. I think I’m more concerned with being alone, than being happy.

I do equate love with pain, but every experience of romantic love I’ve had has actually caused me deep and intense pain. This is a result of experience, not unfounded fear. I actually do not tend to jump from one bad relationship to another. This constant dating and always having a new partner is relatively odd for me. Traditionally I will end a relationship and stop dating for 6-8 months so I can get my head back on straight. With only a couple exceptions the people I choose to date are generally very good people. Then again, those don’t seem to be the ones I form intense attachments to, do they.

Poor Communication Skills: codependents blame, threaten, coerce, beg, bribe, and advise others. They don't mean what they say and don't say what they mean. They don't take themselves seriously and expect others to do the same. They avoid getting to the point, asking indirectly for attention by sighing, crying, or moping around. They say everything is their fault. They say nothing is their fault. They can't get to the point, and if pressed, they're not sure what the point really is. They believe their opinions do not matter and have difficulties asserting their rights or expressing honest emotions, openly and appropriately. They apologize for bothering people.

I’m getting better at communicating my needs though in the past I was very, very bad at stating anything that was going on with me internally. I do often feel guilty for expressing what is on my mind though I don’t believe things are my fault when they actually aren’t. I’m also absolutely ok with acknowledging when I have screwed up and taking the blame for something I’ve done… once I recognize that I screwed up. It’s so tricky. For a long time I blamed myself for the abuse I took in my relationship with Evil-Ex because I felt responsible for staying in that relationships. To an extent I still feel that is my fault even though the abuse didn’t end once I stopped the relationship. I thought it was my fault. In reality though, I didn’t ask for the abuse, he had no right to treat me that way. It was his fault for being a monster. Tricky tricky tricky.

Poor Boundaries: codependents say they won't tolerate something from anyone, and then engage themselves in exactly that. Then they gradually increase their tolerance levels till they can tolerate most anything others do to them. They allow others to hurt them, over and over and over again. They stay in bad relationships for all the wrong reasons: to fix the other; for the kids (like kids need to grow up in a loveless relationship); because things will get better; and worst of all: because they feel they deserve to live in hell. They complain and blame but far too many never get away from their abuser. Then they finally get angry and become totally intolerant and the cycle begins all over again.

I’m definitely guilty of saying I won’t tolerate something but then allowing it to happen. However, this is conditional. If it’s someone that I’ve already fallen in love with and have emotions that are beyond my ability to control than this becomes a possibility. If it’s not someone that I’ve fallen for and do not have a deep attachment to, then I won’t tolerate shit and I can put up reasonable boundaries. I don’t have any of these reasons though. If I stay with someone that is hurtful it’s because I love them, not because I believe I don’t deserve to be happy. This may still be an expression of codependency, b/c the thought of losing someone I’m so attached to is beyond painful. However once I reach my limit, I’m done. For good.

Lack of Trust: codependents do not trust themselves, their feelings, their decisions, other people, or even God. And then, right out of the blue, they'll trust someone who is totally untrustworthy.

I don’t trust people for good reason. I don’t trust myself because I tend to be impulsive and I make poor emotional choices. However! I do trust some people that have most definitely earned my trust, like Roommate or my sister. One thing I’ve never done is trust someone that is totally untrustworthy. I may interact with them, I may want to trust them, but I won’t actually trust them.

Sexual Problems: codependents go through cycles in the bedroom. They are caretakers there too. They have sex when they don't want to or withdraw sex to punish their partner. They try to have sex when they are hurt or angry, and refuse to enjoy it. They withdraw emotionally from their partner, feel revulsion toward their partner, and don't want to talk about it. They reduce sex to a technical act, wonder why they don't enjoy it; lose interest; make up reasons to abstain, wish their partner would die, go away, or guess what is wrong with them; they have strong sexual fantasies about others and consider having affairs.

I can definitely see myself being a caretaker here. I never say ‘no’ to sexual anything even when I’m tired or uncomfortable (if it’s with someone that I’m already established with! I don’t sleep with random people). Though to be fair I do actually enjoy it and I think using sex or denying sex as a weapon or punishment is just wrong. Idk, I have very few sexual boundaries because I really do enjoy a lot of things in regards to sex. It’s something to enjoy and have fun with. When my boundaries were violated I did learn to talk about it and set solid boundaries!

General: codependents can be extremely responsible or irresponsible, they become martyrs, sacrificing their own happiness. They find it difficult to be happy, feel close to others, or have fun and be spontaneous. They are passive aggressive, feeling passive, hurt, helpless yet violent and angry. They laugh when they want to cry. They are ashamed of their families, of their relationships. They cover up, lie, and protect their family from their problems. They don't seek help because they don't feel the problem is all that bad. And then they wonder why the problems never go away.

In general I can see much of this as true for me. I’m not usually ashamed of my family or relationships (unless cognitively I know the relationship is very unhealthy and yet I’m still emotionally attached). When it comes to my problems, I definitely feel shame when I am not able to take care of something on my own and will not ask for help if I can avoid it. I don’t want others to see me struggle.  I think there is an important distinction in this statement. That being “To protect their family”…. I may cover up and lie about having problems, but it’s not to protect others, it’s to protect myself.

 I would think that someone who is codependent would feel helpless, feel that they needed someone else to rely on in order to fix their problems. Maybe that’s wrong though. Maybe someone that is codependent is so worried about people thinking they will be too much trouble if they have any problems that they must hide them. What do you think?

Over-responsibility – is taking responsibility for someone else’s problems. A person who is over-responsible will blame themselves for the actions, feelings, and thoughts of others. This can make them a victim of the problems other people have regardless of whether or not those problems have anything to do with them.

No. I often feel guilty if I can’t help enough but I don’t usually feel responsible for other people’s problems.

Resentment and self-pity often accompany co-dependence. When you do so much for other people (whether voluntarily or involuntarily), it’s easy to feel unappreciated, resentful, and self-pitying when you do not receive acknowledgement for the things you do.

I don’t know folks. I recognize a lot of these traits in myself, but I don’t know if I necessarily attribute all these things to codependency. A lot of them come from issues that I have that are completely separate from having anything to do with relationships. Or they’re a product of abuse. That’s the problem with self-diagnosis. You can go through a checklist and see that you match certain things, but if the context of those symptoms isn’t right then you may be attaching to a false label.

I have one more thing to share with you on this topic and then we’ll move on to it’s counterpart.


  1. Ive actively struggled with co-d issues my whole life. It goes hand in hand with my bpd. I have actively faught against the co-d, though. I always forced myself to take time between partners and not jump from relationship to relationship because I have seen others do it. I met my friend because I was deliberatlely sport fucking (we met in a threeway) after my divorce from a very co-d/narcish type. I am quite surprised my friend and I hit it off the way we did. It surprised us both.

    My needy cingy co-d stuff has been trying to sabotage me. It has gotten the best of me in the last six months, but I am more aware of how it plays into my bpd and vice versa. The flavors mix too well.

    I feel like Im in the final throes of tearing off my mental shackles. It is scary and exciting at the same time. Ive spent the last year identifying all the weird little programs that run in my cpu. I was so numb and zombified by depression, dissociatio in my marriage... now that I got out I have been waking like from some weird dream.

    1. It's very apparent to me just how easily codependence and BPD could effect each other. Compounding the already intense emotional issues we deal with.

      Would you be willing to do a Guest Post? Maybe do a write up of how it feels to be in a BPD and in co-d relationships and the internal struggles that you fight? It's ok if you don't want to. I know it could be a lot of emotion to dredge up and it's absolutely ok if you don't want to be quite so in the spotlight about it.

      I love that phrasing - tearing off the mental shackles. I can definitely identify with how it can be scary but exciting. This entire journey of self discovery, understanding, and ultimately (hopefully) recovering from BPD is the same - scary but exciting. It's strange that it can be scary to lose soomething you know to be so detrimental but when it's all you know it at least has the comfort of familiarity.

      I'm so glad you're in a place where you are healing and able to embrace the things that will hopefully help you be happier.

  2. You found a good summary of symptoms. It seems you have gained a lot of self-knowledge in trying to heal. Codependents don't always "feel" needy and dependent. Often they're the "strong" ones in a relationship and may get involved with an addict or BPD or narcissist - someone who needs them. Generally, both partners in a relationship are codependent if one is, or they'd never feel comfortable with each other, and yes, trauma and past PTSD is all part of the problem. It's a complex disease or syndrome and requires support and someone outside yourself to fully recover, especially when it comes to healing the past. You'll find in-depth information and self-help tools for recovery in Codependency for Dummies. There's more at

  3. To anyone in here who might want to read, this is my blog about co-dependency:
    Take care!


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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