Have you ever found yourself more concerned about another person’s New Year Resolution than your own?  Sounds strange – but not for a family member who lives in worry about another’s alcoholism, drug using or other behavioral addiction.  Unfortunately, the concern about another person’s behavior can become so anxiety-making that everything else of importance in your life can fall to the wayside in the service of trying to help the other person. 

When does care and concern about other people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors turn into an unhealthy preoccupation or even obsession?  Codependency is a term used to describe the behavior of a person who places other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, such that they lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self.  

A codependent usually starts with good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior. 

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The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent.  Ironically, the codependent derives a false feeling of security and importance by taking care of the other person, even though they complain about being taken advantage of or unappreciated.  When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. 

Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are: 

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others 

  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue 

  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time 

  • A fear that saying “no” to another person or being honest will lead to disapproval or rejection

  • A belief in the thought that their self-esteem is entirely dependent on how helpful or needed they are

  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts 

  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship to avoid the feeling of abandonment 

  • An extreme need for approval and recognition 

  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves 

  • A compelling need to control others 

  • Lack of trust in self and/or others 

  • Fear of being abandoned or alone 

  • Difficulty identifying feelings 

  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change 

  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries 

  • Chronic anger 

  • Lying/dishonesty 

  • Poor communication 

  • Difficulty making decisions 

If you find yourself relating to any of these thoughts, feelings or behaviors, you might want to look further into the possibility that you are in a codependent relationship.  There is a great deal of literature and support on the topic, as well as self-help and Twelve Step Programs (Al-Anon). Recognizing that your most problematic relationship is the one you have with yourself is the first step towards breaking out of codependent behavior patterns.

Psychologists Jeffrey S. Kahn, PhD, MAC, CGP, DABPS, and Alison W. Johnson, PsyD, had a vision.

They imagined a center where New Jersey’s most skilled psychotherapists—from all disciplines of applied psychology—could work under one roof. They saw a warm, welcoming, supportive space for individuals, couples, families, and groups of all ages. They pictured a communal environment that fostered counselor-to-counselor consultation and collaboration, and a spectrum of creative, innovative services.​

Most important, they envisioned a place where people could not only heal their psychological wounds—but also learn how to achieve their goals and live happier, more fulfilling lives.

Transforming dream into reality, Drs. Kahn and Johnson established Summit Psychological Services, P.A. in 1992. SPS has since grown to become one of the largest, most comprehensive private psychotherapy practices in New Jersey. Our Summit and Montclair offices have served thousands of people from northern and central New Jersey (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Union, Warren, and nearby counties); New York City; and Eastern Pennsylvania.

As an SPS client, you benefit from the best of all worlds: the comfort, privacy, and safety of a trusted therapist’s office; a wide range of services; and the depth and breadth of expertise offered by our multi-specialty team.

Summit Psychological Services offers two locations: in Summit at 482 Springfield Avenue and in Montclair, at 94 Valley Road. To reach us, contact Information@SummitPsychologicalServices.com or call 908-273-5558.