According to Total Life Counseling in central Florida, codependency is “an excessive and unhealthy compulsion to rescue and take care of people or when a person has a strong desire to control people around them, including their spouse, children and coworkers." Teens might be susceptible to codependency if they live in a stressful environment such as in circumstances where one or both parents are negligent, ill or substance abusers. A list of characteristics of codependency from Codependents Anonymous makes it possible to recognize behaviors to look for.
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Codependent Behaviors at Home
According to CODA, a strong characteristic of codependents is they have difficulty accepting and expressing emotions. Teens might withdraw from family and avoid expressing themselves, or they might alter or deny their feelings when pressed. They tend to obsess over places, objects and what other people are doing and will use these distractions to avoid intimacy with their family. They might bottle up negative emotions such as fear, anger, or sadness or express them in passive-aggressive ways such as giving parents the silent treatment or refusing to do something when asked. Codependent teens will use blame or shame to manipulate siblings and parents and will lie to cover up mistakes and to prove they are right.
Codependent Behaviors at School and Work
CODA also lists difficulty making decisions and accepting help as characteristics of codependency. Teens who are codependent might have problems initiating projects at school or work and meeting project deadlines. They might never be satisfied with what they do accomplish and shy away from receiving praise. However, some might overcompensate for this insecurity by demanding praise or taking credit for others' accomplishments. Codependent teens will make rash decisions without considering consequences and reject the help or advice of their peers, which can strain relationships with coworkers or teachers. They also have difficulty admitting mistakes made in the classroom or on the job.
Codependent Personal Relationship Behaviors
Codependency has serious effects on how a person handles romantic relationships. Codependent teens will stay in an dysfunctional relationship despite the danger out of a unhealthy sense of loyalty. They also often will accept sexual attention in lieu of actual love, resulting in risky and promiscuous behavior. They might compromise their own values and beliefs in order to avoid rejection and will place the other person's opinions over their own. If not in a relationship, codependent teens might obsess over the person they are attracted to and refuse to accept if they are unavailable, regardless of the circumstances.
Where to Get Help
Recovery from codependency is a process. Several books have been written on the subject, including “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie. Also, Codependents Anonymous is a 12-step program that helps people recover from codependency. Regardless of the method they use, teens with codependency problems should seek help with a counselor.