In my last blog post, I presented a definition of codependency and discussed the characteristics of this much talked about problem. This month I will cover the causes of codependency.

Some of the primary causes of codependency are as follows:

  1. Inadequate Nurturing – Our need for approval, acceptance and love were not met due to family dysfunction. Emotional unavailability, addiction, fractured communication, abuse, high conflict, an absentee parent or a parent with mental illness are a few examples of dysfunction in the home.
  2. Feeling Unloved – In the soil of dysfunction irrational thoughts emerge – “If I do this I will be loved” or “If I am this I will be loved.” In this emotional vacuum we become obsessed with finding love. When our codependent thinking and behavior fail to fill this need, the wound deepens and we “double down” and try harder to earn love through our rescuing/controlling behavior. The pattern now becomes ingrained.
  3. Learning from a significant adult who models codependency. We learn how to survive in our dysfunctional environment by following their example. We learn how to keep the peace, get positive attention (we think it to be love) or at the very least avoid negative attention. Unfortunately, this cycle ensures that the “family tradition” gets passed on to another generation.
  4. Homing Instinct – As humans we tend to instinctively seek out what is familiar or comfortable. We are drawn to our “emotional home” even if we are aware that it isn’t healthy. We tend to recreate what we know. The power of this pull cannot be underestimated; it has a profound influence on us.

In the next blog, we will look at the cure for codependency. Until then please take time to examine the possible influences/causes you to have experienced that contribute to your own codependent tendencies. An accurate and honest understanding of our past is crucial for healing.

With you on the recovery path,

Ron Paterik is a practicing psychotherapist in Phoenix, Arizona with over 20 years’ experience. He is a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor and a Whole Life Leadership Mentor at Grand Canyon Counseling.