Note: This is the first of a two-part series. Click here for part two

Dear Neil:  Recently you wrote about co-dependency.  For years I have thought of myself as co-dependent, but have been unable to change it.  Could you review what co-dependency is—and offer ideas of what I can do about it?

Interested in Changing in Ontario

Dear Interested in Changing:  Here is a checklist of co-dependent behaviors, courtesy of Melody Beattie in the book Codependent No More.  Check those characteristics which you think apply to you:

  • Feel responsible for other people—for their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being and ultimate destiny
  • Feel compelled, almost forced, to help another person solve their problems
  • Over-anticipate other people’s needs, and wonder why others don’t do the same for you
  • Find yourself saying “yes” when you mean “no”, doing things you don’t really want to be doing, doing more than your fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing themselves
  • Not knowing what you want and need—or if you do—telling yourself that what you want and need isn’t important
  • Trying to please others instead of yourself.
  • Feel sad because you spend your whole life giving to other people and nobody gives to you
  • Find yourself attracted to needy people—and find needy people attracted to you
  • Feel angry, victimized, unappreciated and used
  • Come from a troubled, repressed or dysfunctional family, which you tend to deny
  • Blame yourself for the way you think, feel, look, act and behave
  • Get angry, defensive, self-righteous and indignant when others blame and criticize you—something you regularly do to others
  • Take things personally and feel like a victim
  • Are so afraid of making mistakes you often don’t try at all
  • Wonder why you have a tough time making decisions
  • Feel a lot of guilt
  • Feel ashamed of who you are
  • Believe you don’t deserve happiness
  • Wish others would like and love you, but believe others couldn’t possibly like and love you
  • Feel terribly anxious about problems and people
  • Try to catch people in acts of misbehavior
  • Find it almost impossible to say “no”
  • Ask for what you want and need indirectly, such as sighing
  • Have a difficult time asserting your rights
  • Have a difficult time expressing your emotions honestly, openly and appropriately
  • Complain, blame and try to control
  • Don’t trust yourself, your feelings, your decisions or other people
  • Find it difficult to feel close to people
  • Find it difficult to have fun and to be spontaneous

Scoring:  The more yes answers, the greater your level of co-dependency.  I will discuss what you can do about co-dependency in next week’s column.

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