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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 PatternsCodependents 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.

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