It’s no secret that codependency can cause an awful lot of suffering and distress, not least on our mental health. In this article, we’re going to explore codependency and anxiety in more detail; it’s a complex topic that affects many people, so let’s start by making sure we know exactly what codependency is and how it relates to anxiety.
From there, we’ll look at some of the common signs and symptoms of both codependency and anxiety, along with available courses of treatment. If you’ve got firsthand experience or are worried about how codependency might be impacting your anxiety levels, then stay tuned! There’s lots of helpful information to come.
Understanding Codependency and Anxiety
Codependency and anxiety are two very related states of being that can be experienced in various ways. Codependency is typically associated with attachment to another person or entity, such that a person’s well-being is dependent upon the other’s.
It can also be used to describe an unhealthy reliance on substances like drugs or alcohol, in which case codependent behaviors involve controlling, enabling, codependent rationalizing, and obsessing. Anxiety on the other hand is an emotional state characterized by fear, worry, and unease.
It can range from minor feelings of uneasiness to severe panic attacks and sometimes even agoraphobia. The codependency and anxiety connection may be due to codependent emotions causing further stress and apprehension; or because codependent behavior patterns exacerbate existing issues with anxiety.
In any event, understanding codependency and anxiety as two separate but connected issues is essential for finding help for either one.
How Codependency And Anxiety Are Related
Codependency and anxiety often go hand-in-hand in relationships. People who are codependent develop very unhealthy coping mechanisms and tend to take responsibility for other people’s emotions and problems, placing them before their own.
This codependency can cause significant levels of stress, fear, insecurity, and even guilt – all of which contribute to anxious feelings. People engaged in codependent relationships can also be urged to make decisions quickly outside of their comfort zone with uncomfortable consequences, leading to heightened anxiety.
Unfortunately, codependency often reinforces anxious behaviors within a relationship. As codependent people try desperately to please other people no matter the cost, out of fear of losing connection or approval.
When codependents don’t manage their anxiety adequately, they can fall into a cycle of avoidance or reactivity instead of facing the situation head-on.
Ultimately, codependency and anxiety are closely intertwined as codependents tend to absorb all the stress associated with their relationship dynamics while striving for approval— making it easier for symptoms of anxiety to follow suit.
The Prevalence Of Codependency And Anxiety In Society
Codependency and anxiety are two psychological issues that have an increasing prevalence in society today. In part due to the stressors of mundane life, these mental health issues are becoming more common than ever before.
The prevalence of both codependency and anxiety has been steadily rising over the past few decades due to various factors. This includes increased stress levels, exposure to media depictions of unrealistic relationships, lack of effective coping mechanisms, and changes in societal norms.
In particular, the development of technology has enabled people to have access to more information than ever before. This information is not limited to positivity but also on stressful topics related to relationships which can lead to an increase in feelings of codependency and anxiety.
Additionally, many people today are struggling with financial pressures which can cause them further stress leading them towards these mental health issues.
The society also places a lot of emphasis on individual achievement which may lead some individuals towards developing codependent relationships where they feel reliant upon another person for support or success. Furthermore, there is often a lack of education about healthy relationship dynamics which could contribute towards the development of codependent behaviors amongst adults and young people alike who do not understand better ways of relating with one another.
One major contributing factor to the prevalence of codependency and anxiety in society is our current culture of instant gratification.
Technology has made it easier than ever to access information quickly and connect with others instantly. This can be great for staying up-to-date with news and communicating with those we care about; however, this reliance on being constantly connected can also lead to codependency if left unchecked.
Another factor that contributes to the prevalence of codependency and anxiety is our tendency to compare ourselves to others. With the rise of social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter, there is a constant stream of images portraying ‘perfect’ lives and relationships that many feel pressured to live up to – even if they don’t necessarily want those things for themselves.
This kind of comparison can lead people down an unhealthy path where they start relying on external validation from other people instead of relying on themselves for their own self-worth.
To combat codependency and anxiety in society, it is important to foster an environment where individuals can establish their own strong core values and identity without seeking validation from external sources.
The Connection Between Codependency And Anxiety
We’ve all experienced codependency, whether it be in a romantic relationship, within our family unit, or even amongst friends. But at the same time, codependency can lead to feelings of anxiety and higher levels of stress due to a sense of imbalance in power; when we rely too much on someone else for our emotional needs.
Understanding codependency and its connection with anxiety can help us free ourselves from this unhealthy cycle and achieve more balance in all of our relationships.
Codependency Can Lead To Anxiety
Codependency can be a tricky and dangerous situation to find yourself in, as it can often lead to both mental and physical issues such as anxiety. Put simply, codependency is when someone’s self-worth and identity become so interconnected with another person (or people) that they stop relying on their own judgment and instead follow the lead of the other person.
This can cause an individual to essentially give up control of their own life in order to make sure the other person is happy.
Those who are codependency have reported feeling anxious when their codependent relationship goes through a rough patch or experiences distress. So given this push-pull dynamic between codependency and anxiety, it becomes important for individuals in codependent relationships to recognize this issue early on and take the necessary steps to protect their well-being before the stress of codependency causes too much harm.
Anxiety Can Exacerbate The Codependent Behavior
Anxiety can exacerbate codependent behavior in a variety of ways. To begin with, anxiety can drive a person to be more focused on the needs and wants of other people, even to their own detriment.
An anxious person may be desperate to please someone else and willing to go to extreme lengths to do so.
This could mean sacrificing their own well-being, financial security, and goals in order to keep someone else happy or placated. For example, an anxious person may stay in an unhealthy relationship because they are too fearful of the repercussions or consequences that would result from leaving it.
Furthermore, anxiety can lead a person to become overly controlling of others in an attempt to alleviate their own worries and fears. A codependent individual might try too hard to control another’s behaviors and decisions out of fear that something bad will happen if they don’t intervene.
This type of controlling behavior is often rooted in anxiety about safety, health, and well-being; however, it can often have detrimental long-term effects on both parties involved (i.e., one becoming dependent on the other).
Moreover, when feelings of anxiety are left unchecked or untreated they can manifest as physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, chest pain or tightness, headaches, fatigue, etc., all of which cause further distress for the anxious person and increase their desire for connection with another person who can provide them with comfort and reassurance that everything will be okay.
This need for connection then leads them down the road toward becoming codependent.
As they seek out somebody who will remain devotedly by their side while they work through these issues. However, this dependence only serves to further perpetuate feelings of anxiety within themselves as well as the other party involved due to the imbalance created between them (one being overly dependent on the other).
Finally, anxiety can also act as a barrier when it comes to communication between two people in a codependent relationship. Since individuals who suffer from high levels of anxiety tend to avoid talking about difficult topics or situations due to fear that it could lead to an argument or disagreement with their partner(s).
This contributes further towards perpetuating their codependent dynamics by preventing any meaningful dialogue from taking place between them regarding how they both feel about certain situations/events etc. This inability or unwillingness to communicate effectively has been known to create additional strain on relationships over time if left unresolved.
This then causes more stress for all parties involved – hence further reinforcing the cycle of codependency at play here.
13 Common Patterns In Codependent And Anxious Individuals
Codependent and anxious individuals often develop numerous maladaptive patterns in order to cope with overwhelming feelings of fear and insecurity. These patterns, which can be seen as attempts to gain control over situations, are typically linked to the need for approval from others and the tendency to avoid conflict.
Some of the most common patterns include:
- People Pleasing: One of the most prevalent patterns among codependent and anxious individuals is the need for approval from others. This results in a tendency to say yes even when it is uncomfortable or even detrimental to do so. People pleasing leads an individual to put their own needs second in order to appease those around them and maintain harmony within relationships. This often leads to resentment and low self-esteem as one’s own needs are not being met.
- Avoiding Conflict: Another common pattern among codependent and anxious individuals is avoiding conflict with others at all costs. This stems from a fear of rejection or disapproval, thus leading an individual to stay quiet instead of voicing their opinion or expressing themselves authentically. Avoiding conflict can lead to pent-up emotions that may eventually come out in unhealthy ways, such as aggression or passive-aggressive behavior toward others.
- Rigid Thinking Patterns: Codependents also tend towards rigid thinking patterns that limit their ability to see things from different perspectives or think creatively about problem-solving strategies. They may get stuck on certain ideas or ways of doing things despite evidence suggesting otherwise, ultimately resulting in frustration and stagnation when it comes to making progress in any area of life.
- Poor Boundary Setting: When it comes to setting boundaries with those around them, people who are codependent often struggle due to difficulty recognizing their own emotions and desires as separate from someone else’s needs or opinions. As such, they may not feel empowered enough to stand up for themselves when presented with potentially difficult situations like saying no or disagreeing with someone close by. Not having clear boundaries can lead an individual to feel overwhelmed by other people’s expectations while simultaneously feeling guilty for not complying with them due to feelings of obligation towards another person’s desires over their own.
- Self-Sacrifice: Codependent individuals often put the needs of others ahead of their own and may feel guilty when they put themselves first. They may struggle to say no and have difficulty setting boundaries, leading to a sense of feeling overburdened or taken advantage of.
- Approval-Seeking Behaviors: Codependents often try to gain approval from other people and can become anxious if they think they might be rejected or judged harshly. They may go to great lengths to please other people, even if it is at their own expense.
- Low Self-Worth: Codependents often have a poor self-image which leads them to constantly question themselves and seek validation from others. This sense of low self-worth can be further exacerbated by the need for approval which codependents are likely seeking from those around them.
- Control Issues: Anxiety can lead codependent individuals to try and control situations that are out of their control, such as relationships with other people or trying to fix or “rescue” someone else’s problems rather than dealing with their own emotions or issues at hand.
- Attachment Issues: Often due to past experiences that left them feeling abandoned or neglected, codependents may develop an unhealthy attachment style. They become overly dependent on another person for emotional stability and identity gratification, placing all the responsibility for their happiness onto this one person rather than on themselves as an individual person.
- Fear of Abandonment: Due in part because of attachment issues that were developed during childhood, codependent individuals often fear abandonment by those closest to them. This fear can lead them into unhealthy relationships where they feel compelled out of fear rather than love or genuine connection with another person.
- Perfectionism: Trying desperately hard not only to meet expectations but also to exceed expectations can cause anxiety in codependents who strive for perfectionism. This leads them into a vicious cycle of never feeling like anything is good enough even when they attain the highest level possible, there will still be something else that could have been done better. All of this leads them right back into anxiety again as soon as they relax slightly from completing one task successfully.
- Anxiety About Change and Uncertainty: Because change brings uncertainty into our lives, which makes us feel uncomfortable, anxious individuals tend not to trust change. This tendency leads these individuals into avoiding new things altogether because the unknown makes them scared about potential outcomes.
- Difficulty Expressing Emotions And Feelings Openly: The need for approval combined with a past experience that left these individuals feeling vulnerable after expressing feelings openly has caused many anxious and codependent people do not to open up about how they truly feel until it is too late – leaving these individuals waiting anxiously until it is safe enough for them express themselves without worrying about being judged.
How Anxiety Can Affect A Codependent Relationship
Anxiety has a way of infiltrating codependent relationships. It can sneak in without either partner realizing it, manifesting as a feeling that something is off and affecting their connection.
Anxiety can interfere with codependent relationships in several ways, from making codependents feel overwhelmed and unable to communicate effectively, to sabotaging their attempts at creating boundaries within the relationship.
This can lead to codependents feeling guilty for expressing their own needs. As they worry about being seen as selfish or unappreciative of the other person’s efforts.
Furthermore, anxiety can cause partners in codependent relationships to struggle with trust, allowing fear and suspicion to become barriers between them. Though it may not be easy, breaking free from this type of relationship dynamic and learning healthier ways of communicating are key steps toward regaining feelings of security and trust in yourself and your relationship.
5 Types of Anxieties Commonly Experienced In Individuals With Codependency Issues
The types of anxiety experienced by individuals with codependency issues can be quite varied and dependent on the underlying psychological and emotional factors at play. Generally speaking, however, the following types of anxiety are often reported by these individuals:
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Individuals with codependency issues can suffer from generalized anxiety disorder; they may experience a chronic, pervasive sense of acute anxiety, which is not necessarily triggered by any particular event or even related to the individual’s current circumstances. This type of anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
It can also show up as an overwhelming sense of dread or fear that something bad could happen at any moment.
Those with codependency issues often lack the ability to self-soothe and manage their emotions—leaving them feeling unable to cope with the constant state of unease they experience.
2. Panic Disorder:
People who have a codependent tendency may be more likely to experience sudden episodes of intense fear and discomfort known as panic attacks. These are typically accompanied by physical sensations such as shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, dizziness/lightheadedness, and chest pain/discomfort.
Panic attacks often lead people with codependency issues to avoid places or situations that could trigger another attack due to feeling unsafe or out of control.
3. Social Anxiety Disorder:
Codependents are prone to social anxiety due to a combination of factors such as low self-esteem and poor self-image resulting from past experiences (e.g., childhood trauma).
They may feel excessively worried about being judged by others in social settings or engaging in any form of public interaction—including speaking in front of crowds or holding conversations with strangers—which leads them to avoid these activities altogether if possible.
In some cases, this condition can be so severe that even being around familiar people can bring on uncomfortable levels of stress and anxiety for individuals with codependency issues.
4. Separation Anxiety Disorder:
Those struggling with codependency tend to rely heavily on other people for emotional support (e.g., friends and family) they may have an exaggerated fear of being separated from these individuals.
Separation is anxiety even when even when things happen naturally (e.g., going away to college).
As a result, they may become overwhelmed with worry over how things will go without their loved ones near them; this can manifest in both physical symptoms (e.g., headaches) and psychological distress (e.g., depression).
Separation anxiety disorder is also common among individuals who have been raised in difficult home environments where moving away would mean leaving behind the only source(s) of security they know (i.e., abusive family members).
5. Specific Phobias:
Lastly, certain phobias linked with traumatic past events may develop in those dealing with codependency issues; this includes fears ranging from objects/animals (e.g., spiders) to specific situations (e.g., flying), usually caused by an underlying feeling that there is danger present which needs to be avoided at all costs—even though there is no logical reason why this should be so feared in reality.
12 Helpful Strategies For Managing Anxiety In Codependent Relationships
Are codependency and anxiety getting the best of you? If you’re feeling stuck in an unhealthy cycle, don’t despair! With these 12 simple strategies, you can start to take back control and free yourself from codependency and anxiety.
All it takes is a little bit of initiative and soon enough, you’ll begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel. So why not make today the day that you start taking steps towards freedom?
- Acknowledge and identify your anxious feelings: The first step in managing anxiety in codependent relationships is to recognize the feelings of worry and distress that are present. It is important to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and understand how they may be impacting the relationship.
- Develop a self-care plan: Developing a comprehensive self-care plan can help reduce the intensity of anxious feelings, allowing those involved in codependent relationships to better manage their emotions. This plan should include practices such as physical activity, mindfulness meditation, journaling, or engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation.
- Build healthy communication skills: Communicating with your partner in a compassionate yet honest manner is essential for managing anxiety in codependent relationships. Learning to express yourself clearly and assertively will prevent misunderstandings or miscommunications that can lead to further levels of distress and tension.
- Establish healthy boundaries: Setting healthy boundaries can help reduce the amount of stress that comes from feeling overwhelmed by the demands of relationships. Establishing clear expectations for both parties will allow each person to have their needs heard and respected while rebuilding trust between them.
- Accept imperfections: Recognizing that neither person is perfect and accepting any flaws or mistakes made during interactions can help create a more secure relationship dynamic and reduce anxiousness associated with codependency patterns.
- Practice detachment: Being able to practice detachment from an unhealthy situation allows for greater emotional clarity when managing anxiety in codependent relationships. Detaching involves taking a step back from one’s own reactions or responses to objectively analyze the situation without becoming overly engaged or reactive towards it emotionally.
- Seek professional support: Mental health professionals can provide valuable insight into understanding anxiety within relationships as well as additional strategies for helping manage it effectively over time with consistent practice and effort on behalf of both parties involved in the relationship dynamics at hand.
- Foster self-compassion: Experiencing moments of self-compassion can be beneficial when going through anxiety-inducing situations related to codependency patterns within a relationship setting; try comforting yourself with reassuring phrases such as “It’s okay not to be okay” or “This too shall pass” as a way to remind yourself that you are worthy of care regardless of any difficulties you may encounter along your journey towards healthy relating with others around you.
- Participate in meaningful activities outside of the relationship setting: Engaging in enjoyable activities outside of the relationship setting like playing sports, spending time outdoors, attending art classes, or visiting new places are great ways for both individuals involved to maintain balance during times when stressors may become heightened due to high levels of anxiety within partnerships.
- Challenge negative thought patterns: Paying attention to any unhelpful thought patterns that arise during interactions allows them to be identified so they can then be challenged through cognitive reframing techniques which helps promote healthier ways of viewing oneself within relational contexts thus reducing overall distress levels.
- Take breaks and practice self-soothing techniques: Taking some time away from each other (while still being respectful) allows both people involved in codependent dynamics space away from difficult situations yet also encourages reconnection at more appropriate times once sufficient calming down phases have been engaged by both parties.
- Maintain an open dialogue and discuss underlying issues: Having meaningful conversations regarding underlying issues present within a relationship offers hope for healing; being able to share concerns openly and worries aids in fostering mutual trust and understanding between partners thus providing an opportunity for growth and connection within the partnership.
5 Ways To Cope With Codependency And Anxiety
Feeling codependent and anxious in a relationship can be a daunting experience. It’s important to remember that there are healthy ways of handling codependency and anxiety, so you don’t have to feel helpless or overwhelmed.
Here are 5 helpful ways you can use to cope with codependency and anxiety in relationships:
1. Individual Therapy
When trying to cope with codependency and anxiety, many find that individual therapy can be immensely helpful. Talking to a professional therapist in a safe environment about your thoughts, emotions, and experiences enables you to gain valuable insight into how codependency and anxiety are impacting your life.
It can help you identify unhelpful patterns of behavior, learn healthy communication strategies, and develop an action plan for managing codependency and anxiety symptoms. Through individual therapy, you’ll build awareness and understanding of yourself which is essential for making meaningful changes in your life.
2. Group Therapy And Support Group
With codependency and anxiety pervading people’s lives, finding the right coping mechanism is essential. Group therapy and support groups are popular options.
These safe spaces can be a great way to share experiences and get an outside perspective on how to deal with codependency or anxiety.
Not only will you learn how other people in similar situations manage their codependency and anxiety, but therapeutic professionals may also be available to provide guidance, helping navigate difficult and overwhelming emotions. With group therapy and support groups, codependents and those with anxiety gain tools that can help them cope with everyday life.
3. Mindfulness And Self-Care Practices
Taking care of one’s mental health is a key step to coping with codependency and anxiety. Mindfulness and self-care practices are powerful tools that can help individuals gain more control in their lives.
Such practices involve actively focusing on the present moment, recognizing the emotions arising from codependency and anxiety, and learning how to take better care of yourself.
This could be something as simple as setting aside five minutes in the morning to meditate or taking a walk during your break instead of scrolling through social media. Creating regular habits that prioritize mental health can lead to significant improvements in codependency and anxiety over time.
4. Setting Healthy Boundaries
One of the most important skills you can learn if you struggle with codependency and anxiety is to set healthy boundaries. Boundaries are sets of clear, respectful rules that protect and express your values, beliefs, and needs.
When codependents have problems setting boundaries, they often end up engaging in codependent behaviors or experiencing excessive anxiety or stress. Establishing healthy boundaries is essential so codependents can maintain their sense of self-worth and respect while also protecting their physical and mental well-being.
Respectfully saying no to an issue or request that conflicts with our needs can be a difficult but empowering skill to master.
With practice, codependents will soon find themselves feeling liberated from codependency and more in control of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
5. Learning To Prioritize Oneself
Coping with codependency and anxiety can often be a difficult balancing act, but having an understanding of how to cope can make all the difference. Learning to prioritize oneself is essential for those who struggle with codependency and anxiety.
It involves taking into account your own values and needs, as well as recognizing what areas need to be addressed in order to improve your mental and emotional well-being.
Taking small steps to practice self-care, such as getting regular exercise or spending time outdoors, can go a long way in helping you find balance and equip yourself with better coping techniques. Overall, learning to put yourself first and understand that you have worth is key to managing codependency and anxiety.
Codependency and anxiety can have a profound effect on an individual’s mental health, but it doesn’t have to be a dead end. There are many ways to manage codependent behaviors and anxieties so you can lead a life that’s free from negative thought patterns and anxieties.
Don’t let codependency be the thing that defines you; instead, bring codependency out of the shadows by speaking to loved ones and getting professional help when needed. Here’s to your journey toward well-being!
Bacon, I., McKay, E., Reynolds, F., & McIntyre, A. (2018). The Lived Experience of Codependency: an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 18(3), 754–771. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-018-9983-8
Happ, Z., Bodó-Varga, Z., Bandi, S. A., Kiss, E. C., Nagy, L., & Csókási, K. (2022). How codependency affects dyadic coping, relationship perception and life satisfaction. Current Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-022-02875-9