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Thursday, 04 Mar 2021

Steps to recovering from co-dependency

By Dr Becky Spelman

Being co-dependent can often feel like a constant cycle of people pleasing and feeling responsible for everything and everyone around you. Although it may be difficult to battle this at first, breaking this cycle can be a big step into finding yourself and finally being able to attend to your own personal needs and start recovering from co-dependency.

Explore your co-dependency 

Recovering from co-dependency will start by being honest with yourself and exploring how your co-dependency affects your life. This is key to figuring out how to turn away from your bad habits. Try to be more conscious of your feelings around other people and how they determine your actions.

Co-dependency may look like:

  • Feeling responsible for other’s emotions
  • Not trusting your own judgement and poor decision making
  • Fear of abandonment and rejection
  • Difficulty communicating your thoughts
  • Struggling to identify and communicate your needs

When identifying these traits, it’s important to be completely non-judgement towards yourself and reassure yourself that your co-dependency does not define you. Blaming yourself may be your initial instinct but you need to treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion you would provide for other people.

Manage your own needs

Seeing others as an extension of yourself and not being able to prioritise yourself can be detrimental for your mental health. Reflect on both your physical and emotional needs, and how you may feel they are not being met. This can often be uncomfortable as it is not in a co-dependent’s nature to be in tune with their own feelings. By working through these uncomfortable emotions, you can learn more about yourself and develop a stronger sense of self

You may need to start by meeting your basic physical needs, for example by exercising, eating healthy and maintaining a sleeping pattern, and then move onto more difficult inner work like determining your core values in relationships and how people around you make you feel. Regardless of what it is, take things at your own pace and don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

Set boundaries

Understanding boundaries with others can often be difficult if you don’t trust yourself or feel responsible for maintaining people’s happiness. This is why exploring your co-dependency is an important step, it allows you to identify when you are investing too much energy in someone else – which is exactly when a boundary needs to be set!

To ease yourself into this, remind yourself that you have the right to prioritise your needs and no matter how the other person responds, you are still doing the right thing. Boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships and you should not feel guilty or selfish.

Try to be respectful of the other person’s needs and validate their feelings but also be very clear of what your expectations are. Explaining yourself as simply as possible can help the other person understand why you are setting the boundary.

Recovering from co-dependency will be more than analysing your relationship with others, but more importantly your relationship with yourself. It may be difficult at first, but you will establish a much better relationship with yourself over time and start to realise that your happiness should always be a priority!


Psych Central. (8 Oct 2018) 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries. Retrieved on 22nd June 2020 from,

WebMD. (7 Aug 2014) Are You in a Co-dependent Relationship? Retrieved on 22nd June 2020 from,

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