Are you dependant or co-dependant?

The objective of this piece of writing is to create awareness. So read it, chew on it, and spit out what you do not like, taking only that which to you can relate, to heart.

To begin, I would like to normalise the word dependence, as we are all dependant on others in one way or another. It is when an individual becomes unhealthily dependent on others, or a specific individual, place or thing, that negative consequences begin to arise. Specific characteristics and patterns, which encourage unhealthy dependence, are denial, low self-esteem, control, compliance, and avoidance.

Don’t Even No I Am Lying A.K.A Denial  –   Also cited as an unconscious defence is the refusal to admit or acknowledge an unacceptable emotion or truth, and admit it into consciousness. The important aspect of denial is that one is not aware of one’s denials, and therefore needs others to help uncover them.

How do I know that I have denial?

You may have difficulty identifying feelings including minimizing, changing, or not allowing true feelings. You see yourself as being unselfish, empathic, and devoted to helping others, while others experience you as the opposite to this.

When you are too dependant on others you project your negative, aggressive, avoidant, passive-aggressive behaviours, onto them. You blame them for your behaviour. You may believe that you don’t need people in any way, leaving you feeling unhappy. You then defend this unhappiness with humour, anger and isolation.

You want and need people in your life, but your behaviour drives them away. Resulting in you experiencing life as lonely and empty. This state of denial then feeds into the second criteria of dependent behaviour.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem makes it difficult to set healthy boundaries, as you are looking to others to provide a sense of safety, because you struggle to make decisions, because you judge yourself harshly, feeling never good enough. This makes it difficult to acknowledge and receive recognition, gifts, or praise from others, as you do not perceive yourself as a lovable or worthwhile person. Yet you feel as if you need the recognition of others, and you seek their approval in everything that you do.  This results in you battling to acknowledge when having made a mistake, as it is important to you that your fellow man perceives you as right.

There might be occasions that this need finds you overstepping your moral beliefs and lying to uphold this facade. You need to be right no matter what. It is thus difficult for you to ask for help, and sometimes you may think yourself better than others. Ultimately you end up having to present yourself as someone you are not, and this takes hard work, and having to manipulate your environment, which results in the third criteria.

Controlling behaviour

So you think you are better than everyone else, you know better, and your peers are not as well tasked to take care of themselves as you are. You find yourself falling into patterns of controlling behaviour. Therefore, if you are going to invest in a relationship with someone they need to need you.

You are selfless, putting others before yourself, even when they are not expecting or asking for your help. You know best, and will go to great lengths to persuade others what to feel, think, or do. All the effort and time you put into helping others, and your need to be right, results in resentment when individuals don’t follow your advice or need your help. Leaving you feeling unhappy. Desperate times then call for desperate measures, as you become more demanding of others to fulfil your needs. If emotional blackmail and dominant behaviour do not work, you will try manipulation like blame, shame, gifts, favours, become helpless, angry, or indifferent.

Sexual attention may be used to gain approval and acceptance. So you are compliant to the needs and values of others, overstepping your own personal boundaries, in an attempt to get your own way.


This is the fourth criteria of dependent behaviour. Fear of being rejected by others, should you show who you really are, sees you making decisions without considering yourself, or the impact on your emotions, beliefs, opinions and feelings. What other people need, or how they might feel, becomes more important than your own needs and feelings. You no longer know what it is you do need or truly feel. At times you may use sexual, emotional, or physical intimacy to gain control over others.

Alternatively, there are times when you may avoid sexual, emotional, or physical intimacy, to isolate yourself from others and keep safe. It is this avoidant behaviour that is the last characteristic which we will look at.

Avoidant behaviour

This behaviour leads to a push-pull dynamic between you, the dependent person, and others. Your judgement of others is harsh, while you also need others’ reassurance, but do not want to show your true feelings or needs, fearing to appear vulnerable. Communication becomes difficult and dishonest, you have expectations and need others, and then push them away. Resulting in others becoming confused, angry, and not wanting to engage. Ultimately this behaviour stands in the way of true intimacy. A lonely, self-defeating, interpersonal communication dance, results.

So maybe some of these criteria apply to you, or maybe you recognise all of them. What is important is that this awareness opens up choice, as you now possibly have a better understanding of some of the discomfort you may be experiencing in life. Remember in making new choices you implement change and the possibility of improved quality of life.