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Self-Love Deficiency Disorder: AKA Codependency

written by Morgan McKean December 4, 2019
Self-Love Deficiency Disorder: AKA Codependency

Do you: Fear rejection and being unlovable? Believe you’re not quite good enough? Take things personally or often feel like a victim? Pick on yourself for everything, including how you think, feel, look, and act? Feed off the neediness of others, or devote all your energy to your one-and-only? If so, chances are you suffer from codependency or, as some members of the mental health community have been relabeling it, self-love deficiency disorder.

Suffering from Self-Love Deficiency Disorder

The terms “codependency” and “codependent” get tossed around a lot these days. There are codependent parents, codependent couples, codependent friends, and even codependent coworkers. And, let’s face it, almost all of us claim to suffer from a bit of codependency when faced with certain situations. But what does it really mean to be codependent, and is it a life sentence?

What is codependency?

When it first came out, the term codependency was used to describe a dysfunctional relationship where one partner or person becomes the caretaker of another, who usually suffers from an illness, or addiction of some kind. However, today we know that codependency describes a much broader issue. At its heart, codependency is a set of learned behaviors that one develops to cope with the stress and anxiety he or she feels when attachments with their primary caregivers or intimate partners are deficient. It’s an excessive emotional, physical, and psychological reliance or dependency on a person or relationship that is completely dysfunctional and/or toxic.

So, what does this mean in the real world?

In essence, it means that your mind isn’t functioning autonomously, but rather that it is enmeshed with another person for validation, love, purpose, and sometimes even survival. And when you go to make decisions for yourself, this other person, or people, influence your thought-making process so heavily that it can actually be debilitating. To be codependent is to suffer from an emotional condition that causes you to look to others for approval and to feel good because you lack a solid concept of self as well as the ability to self-reflect.

The Origin of Codependency

When it comes to the origins of codependency, or how one develops the condition, there are a lot of ideas, theories, and concepts out there. Some research says it’s generational, some about brainwashing and fear, and some about attachment trauma with our primary caregivers. As an Intuitive Counselor and recovering codependent who had a dysfunctional childhood, challenging caregivers, and many abusive relationships, I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t just one way a person becomes codependent. Rather, there are several reasons and ways one becomes codependent, including: biological, psychological, and environmental.

Generational codependency

Some people develop codependency generationally, in that they learned this way of relating from their childhood or family of origin. This particular way of relating occurs when someone in the family is ill, has an addiction, or there are serious problems that tend to be “ignored.” Children in these families learn to define themselves, or their value, through the behavior of their caregivers, while learning to avoid their own feelings and emotions. Once adults, they constantly look to others for approval on everything from what job to take or house to buy, down to minute things like how to wear their clothes or hair, because they lack a strong core-self.


For other people, codependency develops because of severe brainwashing, which can occur as a child, in adolescence, or adulthood. In this scenario, parents, peers, teachers, coaches, and coworkers act as abusive manipulators who trigger and propagate codependent relationships. Romantic partners who are toxic, predatorial, or abusive, as well as those suffering from an addiction, can also be catalysts for the condition. This process of creating codependency is about stripping the person down, telling them what they’re worth, and making them question their sanity, so that their “abuser” can control or exploit them, emotionally, physically, or financially.

Attachment trauma

And for most people, according to Ross Rosenberg M.Ed. LCPC CADC CSAT, author of “The Human Magnet Syndrome,” the condition of codependency is the result of attachment trauma. Attachment trauma is the disruption of the healthy bonding between a baby or child and their primary caregiver. This trauma may be abuse, neglect, or an overall toxic environment, or it may be slightly less obvious, like a lack of attention, affection, words of encouragement, or adequate responses from their caregiver. Unfortunately, the issue of attachment trauma and the ability to identify it doesn’t usually come up until a person is experiencing emotional, psychological or behavioral issues, and seeks help.

In addition to these “paths” to codependency, I would also add that spiritual and biological variables such as empathy, energetic and emotional sensitivity, and DNA, also contribute to whether or not a person becomes codependent. In other words, while highly likely, I don’t believe that codependency is the automatic or only response to these types of people and situations. You could take three different people through the exact same situation, and one could end up codependent, one narcissistic, and one seemingly “unharmed” by it all. Hence, it is my determination that beyond the scientific or identifiable paths to codependency, there are those of us who are just more predisposed to it than others – simply because of who we are.

Am I Codependent?

The short answer is, most likely, “yes,” as most mental health experts agree that 96% of all Americans are codependent to one degree or another. So, the more specific question that you need to ask is…

How Severe is My Codependency?

Given that we’re basically a nation of codependents and addicts, more than trying to decide whether or not you’re codependent, you want to find out whether or not your codependency, or codependent tendencies, are impeding your ability to live a healthy and happy life. The reason I say this is because I have worked with numerous couples over the years who showed codependent tendencies that actually supported the marriage and their bond. This is not to say that I’m advocating for codependency, but more so that I don’t want you to further judge, criticize or berate yourself for something that the majority of the population experiences to some degree or another.

If you’re concerned with whether or not your codependency is interfering with your ability to live a happy life, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I suffer from low self-esteem or struggle with confidence?
  • Do I think other people’s feelings are more important than my own?
  • Do I need the approval or validation of others to feel good about myself?
  • Do I avoid confrontation or accept verbal or physical abuse from others?
  • Do I take responsibility for the actions of others or feel shame when they make mistakes?

Time to Change

In a nutshell, if you have codependency, it means that you suffer with a chronic anxiety and/or stress disorder that affects your ability respond to life, including over-sensitivity and reactivity, unrealistic beliefs about your limitations, and the desire to control the reality of others to point where your boundaries, self-esteem, and even reality, can get lost. And if you want relief, or to improve your life and situation, you have to recognize your maladaptive coping skills – and then change them.

But what if you don’t know what to change or where to even get started?

To help you get started on the shift you’re going to need to make to go from suffering with codependency to having a healthy, autonomous mind, I created the following contrasting lists.

Look at the differences…

The Codependent Mind
  • my self-esteem comes from solving your problems
  • feeling good about myself comes from your liking me
  • your challenges and frustrations affect my peace and serenity
  • I hide my true feelings to manipulate your behavior
  • my primary focus is on pleasing you
  • I put my interests and desires aside to be with you
The Healthy Mind
  • my self-esteem comes from making good choices for me
  • feeling good about me comes from me liking me
  • your challenges matter because I care, not because they dictate how I feel about me
  • I share my true feelings, regardless of how you may receive them
  • my primary focus is on taking care of me and pursuing my passions
  • I purse my interests and passions, even if that means being away from you

As you can see, the difference between having a healthy and codependent mind can mean the difference between enjoying a happy life, full of meaningful success and fulfilling relationships, versus a life of fear, anxiety, and – most likely – depression and physical ailments. And while it may not be your fault that you’re currently codependent, if you want to become healthy again, it’s your responsibility to do what you need to do to heal and recover from it.

If you need help healing your codependency, click here.

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