No relationship is perfect, but sometimes what appears to be just a small communication issue might be hiding something deeper. Codependency and trauma are two issues that can wreak havoc in both romantic and familial relationships. People with codependent personality disorders and individuals who have experienced trauma can often have unhealthy coping mechanisms that may leave them feeling anxious, hopeless, or depressed.
If you’re in a relationship where you feel like you’re giving much more than receiving, fear conflict or rejection from your partner, or have difficulty expressing your feelings, wants, and needs, you could be traumatized or have a codependent personality disorder.
What is Codependency?
Codependency, simply put, is a type of dysfunctional relationship where one individual consistently puts the needs of others before their own. Codependent individuals tend to be passive “people pleasers,” and they will go to extreme measures to try to avoid conflict, abandonment, and rejection from others. Other symptoms of codependent personality disorder can include:
Those with codependent personality disorder can ignore their own needs for so long that they become chronically fatigued. Along with feeling exhausted, they may begin to feel hopeless, helpless, or even incompetent. They may try to “help” someone they care about in unhealthy ways, such as enabling. Enabling is a behavior that codependent people may use in an attempt to relieve potential tension in a relationship. Enabling includes making excuses for a person’s repeated actions, ignoring or belittling problematic behaviors, bailing someone out multiple times, or covering up a person’s illegal or dangerous activities.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is described as an emotional or psychological response to a stressful or disturbing event. Because trauma is subjective, it covers a broad range of different events. For example, a person could be traumatized from childhood emotional neglect, while someone else can experience trauma after escaping from natural disasters such as hurricanes. Due to the many types of traumatic experiences someone could have endured, psychologists have categorized trauma into three main categories in order to help victims:
Trauma can happen at any point in someone’s life, and each person reacts to a traumatic event differently. However, regardless of the type of trauma endured, trauma victims often share many of the same symptoms. These can include:
Differences Between Trauma and Codependency
Trauma and codependency share several of the same symptoms, but the reason behind the symptoms are entirely different. People who have experienced trauma may feel anxious or deeply depressed because they were hurt, witnessed a horrific event, or lost a loved one. On the other hand, those who struggle with codependency could feel anxious and depressed due to fear of being unliked or abandoned and constantly taking care of other people.
Pete Walker, M.A., discovered in his years of study that trauma victims and codependent individuals have different responses to the “four F’s,” which stand for fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. He notes that when confronted with stressful situations, trauma victims tend to “freeze,” or dissociate to distance themselves from the problem. Those with codependent personality disorder instead “fawns,” or tries to become as useful or helpful as possible in order to try and escape pain or punishment.
Coping with Trauma and Codependency
Candace Plattor, M.A., says the important first step is to start working towards a “healthy balance” of assertiveness. Saying “no” when you don’t want to do something and being ready to face potentially negative reactions from others can slowly ease you out of people-pleasing behaviors.
Coping with trauma and codependent behaviors can be difficult to handle on your own, but there is help and hope. At Oakville Wellness Center, there are trained therapists available to help you manage your symptoms and begin your recovery. Here, therapists are often covered by insurance, and there are evening and weekend appointments available. If you’re ready to take the next step towards healing from trauma or codependency, you can book your appointment online today.