Codependency vs. Dependent Personality Disorder

Codependency vs. Dependent Personality Disorder

There has been a bit of confusion in the narcissistic abuse recovery community around codependency and dependent personality disorder. A question I received from one of our community members prompted me to clarify the differences and similarities between the two. The confusion seems to be that some people think that codependency and dependent personality disorder are the same or similar, sort of like how someone with toxic, abusive behaviors and narcissistic traits may or may not be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.

However, in the case of codependency and dependent personality disorder, there are only a few similarities, but many differences. If you have wondered this about yourself, here’s what you need to know.

What is Codependency?

Do you struggle with doing anything independently and feeling secure when you’re alone? Do you need to be with others, or do you find yourself feeling overly connected to a partner, friend, or family member (or any one person in particular) because the idea of being alone frightens you? Do you need to be in a relationship? Do you tolerate abuse and other behaviors in your relationship? Have you stuck it out, regardless of the toxicity of it? Do you go out of your way to please others? If so, then you might be struggling with codependency.

Codependency is a toxic emotional and behavioral condition that makes it nearly impossible to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form and stay in relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive. In other words, codependency is an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, most often a toxic one.

What is a Codependent? 

We call someone who struggles with codependency a codependent, which means a person in a toxic or dysfunctional “helping” relationship, in which one person supports and/or enables the person’s abuse, addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, and/or under-achievement.

  • Codependents are often people pleasers.
  • If you are codependent, you’ll find yourself making significant sacrifices to make your partner happy, no matter how much you suffer. You do this because on some level, you need your partner to need you, and you somehow base your self-worth on whether or not your partner needs you.
  • When someone is codependent, they have a tendency to stay in the relationship no matter how toxic, at least before they recognize this issue. Sadly, due to their nature, many codependents end up in toxic relationships with narcissists.
  • If you’re facing narcissistic abuse, your codependency could be the factor that is causing you not to leave. You might even feel guilty if you were to express your wants and needs, so you keep sacrificing them to please your partner.

But does being codependent mean you have DPD? No, there is a difference. Let’s talk about DPD right now.

What Is Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?

When you first learn about DPD, you might think it’s just a formal diagnosis of codependency. But according to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s an anxious personality disorder, and there’s a lot more to it than that. In short, someone with DPD feels generally helpless, like they can’t take care of themselves at all.

If you have DPD, you would be highly dependent on others, and you will rely on others to make decisions for you. You are afraid to be alone and you worry that you might not be okay if you do find yourself going solo. You also do whatever you can to make the people around you like you, including but not limited to not disagreeing with them, even if you’re not on the same page. As with codependency, you might also have a fear of abandonment.

With DPD, you aren’t likely to speak up for yourself and you might avoid arguments by agreeing with others even if you secretly don’t agree with what someone wants to do. As you would with codependency, you’d be likely to stick with an unhealthy relationship due to the fear of being alone.

What Are The Differences Between DPD And Codependency?

Now, let’s talk about the differences between DPD and codependency. First, DPD is a personality disorder, whereas codependency is a behavior.

If you are codependent, you want to take care of your partner, and you will do whatever you can to keep them around – even if they are going out of their way to hurt you. You’d feel more connected if your partner really needed you, and you would sacrifice your wants and needs to take care of them. While you might need people to need you, you’re also happy to do all of the work involved in whatever that entails. You’re a fixer, a helper. Growing up, your friends might have always come to you for advice and considered you the “mom” or “dad” of your group. You’re the one everyone counts on.

If you have DPD, you need others to take care of you. You wouldn’t know what to do if your partner needed you to do something for them. You wouldn’t be likely to tolerate excessive emotional, psychological, or physical abuse in order to maintain the relationship as someone who is codependent might. People with DPD sometimes act helpless and refuse to handle their adult responsibilities, preferring to have them taken care of by someone else.

How to Get Help with DPD and Codependency 

Is there any hope for you if you’re struggling with DPD or codependency? Can you get help for either one? Yes, you can get to the road of independence, but it will take plenty of time, effort, and utilizing the right therapeutic sources. Here are some resources to help you.

Dependent Personality Disorder Resources

Codependency Resources 

Related articles for People Struggling with Codependency

 

 

5 Signs Your Mother is a Narcissist

5 Signs Your Mother is a Narcissist

Were you raised by a narcissistic mother? If you’re like a lot of adult children of narcissistic mothers, you may have only recently realized that you were. See, just like you can be married to a narcissist for 20 years and not realize that you’re dealing with narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship, many children raised by a narcissistic mother don’t realize what they’re experiencing until they become adults. They would, however, pick up that their mothers seem somehow different from their friends’ mothers. They might recognize that their mothers don’t seem to care about them and are extremely hard on them. Or, they’ll notice that their mothers make them feel invisible. Maybe they’ll recognize that they don’t feel important, or that their mother played them against their siblings. In some cases, they may even feel like they need to achieve whatever dream their mothers have for them (or wish to live vicariously through them.

Any of that sound familiar? If so, you might have been raised by a narcissistic mother.

5 Signs You Were Raised by a Narcissistic Mother

Not sure? Let’s go over 5 signs that do confirm that you were raised by a narcissistic mother.

1. Your Mom’s a Control Freak

If you were raised by a narcissistic mother, you might struggle to make decisions alone. That’s because you grew up with a mom who did what she could to control your every move. She controlled the direction you went in life, she controlled you to the point that you never wanted to even think of moving to another city once you were ready to spread your wings. She controlled everything you did. You may have felt resentful or you may have felt overly obligated, depending on her method of control.

2. Your Mom Makes Everything All About Her

You may have noticed that when you were struggling in school or had an issue with friends and tried talking to your mother about it, she would always somehow make it about her in one way or another. And as you’ve gotten older, she most likely continues to do this. For example, when you got married, she might have overshadowed your wedding with her own drama. Or, when you had kids, she may have forced her input into everything from their names to which school they’d attend. It’s always about her, all the time.

3. Your Mom Loses Her Temper and Blames You for Everything

Narcissistic mothers nearly always have a tendency to lose their temper easily. You already know this is an understatement if you grew up with a toxic female parent – and you would have dealt with that type of thing far too often for your taste. If anything went wrong, she found a way to make it your fault. And when you had the nerve to deny that you had caused the problem, your narcissistic mother would go ballistic on you, blaming you without even considering the possibility that you could be innocent. This would be especially true if she was actually the person to blame. For instance, if someone did not receive an important document that she sent, she might blame you for it – even if it makes no logical sense. She might say something like, “Well, maybe if you hadn’t distracted me while I was mailing the letter, it would’ve got where I tried to send it,” or something equally senseless. Narcissists in general are really bad at accepting responsibility for their own mistakes.

4. Your Mom Made You a Servant…Or Smothered You Into Helplessness

Your narcissistic mother was nothing if not extreme. And in this case, the extremes were clear: she either treated you like a servant, or she did literally everything for you and used that to make you feel obligated to her (not to mention helpless as an adult).  Which way she went would depend on her particular “brand” of narcissism. If she was more of a controlling, helicopter parent, she probably did everything for you (and lived vicariously through you). But if she were less focused on her role as “Mother” and more focused on … well, anything or anyone outside of that, then she was more likely to make you here personal servant. For example, you might have learned to make her favorite martini at a very young age.

5. Your Mom Compared You to Other Kids

“Why can’t you be more like (insert kid’s name here:?” Whether she was comparing you to a sibling or a friend, a narcissistic mother is always messing with your self-esteem and refusing to give you even the most basic form of validation. One of her favorite ways to do this is by comparing you to others. For example, if your brother always got better grades than you did, this would be thrown in your face often. You’d be called lazy and made to feel not good enough, at the very least – and that’s if you weren’t also excessively grounded or otherwise punished by your mother. And chances are that if you are the adult child of a narcissistic mother, you’ve been compared to others for your whole life. Your mother may even have sort of “adopted” other people your age who she openly preferred to you – literally making you feel somehow replaced.

Having a narcissistic mother will have a long-lasting impact on you. Not only does it leave you feeling lost, unloved, and unwanted, but the chances of finding a partner just like her increase significantly (and what I see often is that you end up with someone who seems to be the polar opposite of her, but who actually end up being a different type of narcissist.

In this video, I’ll give you more detail on what you can do if you are struggling to heal after dealing with a toxic mother.

Get Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Here

Is your mother a narcissist? If so, these resources will be helpful for you.

More on Toxic Mothers

More Resources for Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse

You might also like these videos:

How To Make The Narcissist Respect You (The Only Way)

How To Make The Narcissist Respect You (The Only Way)


(Prefer to listen/watch? See video on YouTube)

There was probably a time when you believed that the narcissist in your life actually respected you, right?  I mean, why else would they have treated you so well? During the love-bombing (idealization) phase, the narcissist is head-over-heels, without a doubt absolutely infatuated with you! So, of course, they’re on their best behavior. They treat you like you’re really important and special – even put you on a pedestal. You don’t treat someone this way unless you respect them. Right?

But then, the devalue phase hit for the first time. And it all fell down around you. You were left spinning, wondering what the heck just happened. If you’re anything like me, you needed to figure it out. That probably led you to research the situation, which led you here, eventually.

Recognizing the Narcissist’s Cycle of Abuse

If that sounds familiar, then I would guess that, since then, you’ve learned the unfortunate truth about this toxic person in the most difficult way possible. If that’s the case, then the following should resonate with you, at least on some level.

As it turns out, the narcissist does not respect you, and that incredible connection you felt at the beginning of the relationship wasn’t genuine at all. In fact, the narcissist was love bombing you, and this was part of a definable, repeatable pattern of narcissists in toxic relationships.

In other words, if the narcissist was not a family member, when you met them,  they were in acquisition mode and you were the target. Once they were sure they had you in their clutches, they started treating you…well, a little different. And if the narcissist was a part of your family, they’d be running a similar cycle with you for your whole life.

But in either case, there was a time when you found yourself in the devalue phase, and this is where you first started to realize what was going on. You immediately became aware of the fact that the narcissist didn’t respect you even a little bit. In fact, with every word that came out of their mouth and with every passing moment, they became increasingly abusive, dragging your self-worth into the dirt, making you feel like you didn’t matter at all.

As devastating as this realization was, part of you felt some relief when you realized it wasn’t you – that you weren’t, in fact, the problem in the relationship, as you’d been led to believe.

As your relationship progressed, you may have even forgotten what it felt like to be respected at all. Speaking of respect, does the narcissist really respect anyone at all? Like, ever? Well, yes, and no. It’s complicated. See, we know that your average narcissist seems to think that they are the only ones in the world who are important and everyone else is beneath them. In other words, they feel special and entitled to special privileges and gifts that not everyone gets.

I have literally heard more than one narcissist say they believe that on some level, the world revolves around them. And since that is the case, how can the narcissist ever respect you? Let’s talk about it.

Can you make a narcissist respect you?

First, we should agree on what we mean by ‘respect,’ exactly.

Respect can be defined as someone feeling positively toward you as a person. It might also mean being considered important by someone else, and it means that the person respecting you clearly sees and admires your good qualities. It means that they hold you in high regard and are obviously aware of your individual value as a person and a unique, separate entity from themselves (as opposed to an extension of self). It means they treat you in a way that makes you feel good, or at least comfortable.

Is it possible for a narcissist to respect anyone, based on that definition of respect? Maybe. But they generally don’t. Instead, they’ll see you as an object or an extension of themselves. Or, if you’re an authority figure, they’ll be kinder to you and may even appear to respect you, but secretly, they’ll be calculating how they can benefit from knowing you – or worse, depending on the relationship you have, how quickly they can take your place. The truth is that your average narcissist really respects no one at all, with the exception of MAYBE themselves – but even then, their understanding of the concept of respect is skewed and twisted, thanks to their incredibly low EQ.

Some people will advise you that learning to respect yourself is the key to making a narcissist respect you. And listen – I want that to be true, too. But it just isn’t – at least not when you’re talking about functional respect. What I mean is that when you combine the narcissist’s lack of compassion and emotional empathy with their inability to see you as a whole person, you get someone who doesn’t care how you feel and who thinks you don’t matter. Those ingredients do not add up to respect in any form.

What if you leave the narcissist? Won’t they respect you then?

A lot of people think and will advise that leaving the narcissist will make them respect you. While it might be true on some level and in some cases, it won’t cause them to change and become better people. Sadly, leaving a narcissist will only make them angry, sad, desperate, and/or apathetic, depending on whether they have secured alternate narcissistic supply beforehand. In any case, though, they will still not respect you. They will instead start a smear campaign by first lying about you and often projecting their own sins onto you during their ongoing sob story which helps them to secure more narcissistic supply (because people feel sorry for them, as you might have early in your own relationship, and are compelled to support them).

How to Get the Respect You Deserve

You might not like what I’m about to say, but if you know me, then you know I tell it like it is. Here’s the deal. No one is going to respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Okay, maybe some people will. I will. Still, there’s something about a person who lacks self-respect that sometimes causes even the least toxic people to take advantage of them. And there’s just no reason to vibrate this way. When you learn to respect yourself, you teach others how to treat you almost without even trying, because your standards go up and you naturally enforce your personal boundaries.

But am I saying that the narcissist will be among those who respect you when you learn to respect yourself, after all? No, not exactly. Let’s talk about it,

See, while learning to love and respect yourself will help you to stop accepting the abuse the narcissist dishes out so often, it will certainly not cause them to respect you – at least not in any functional way. BUT…all is not lost!

The good news is that if you do manage to develop your self-image to the point that you are okay with – and maybe even love – who you are, you’ll show them that you will no longer tolerate their BS. Then, be sure to take good care of yourself, inside and out. And as you beam with genuine confidence and you move away from your codependency with the narcissist, something crazy might happen. You might find a way to leave.

And then, my friend, you might find a way to create a life that you love, for real.

Just…stop for a second, and breathe. Imagine with me for a moment that you no longer have to put up with the drama and misery that goes along with the narcissist and that you’ve created the life you really want. What does it look like? Who is involved? Where do you live?  What do you do? How does your ideal life look? Take a few minutes and journal on it!

The narcissist helped to create your codependency.

Your codependency was at least in part sort of co-created by the narcissist in your life. They taught you to be afraid of them, their moods, and their general presence. They taught you that you didn’t matter without them and that if you didn’t go along with what they wanted, that you were bad and/or invisible. In either case, you’d be punished in various ways and this along with all of the emotional and psychological abuse you deal with throughout your relationship with the narcissist will become the basis for your damage – your trauma. It will become the reason you’ll recognize you might be dealing with C-PTSD symptoms and the reason you literally doubt yourself, your reality, and your ability to function like a normal human in the world.

You have to remember something. Narcissists prey on you by leaning into the trauma they’ve created in you. They’ve caused you to lose your self-confidence, thanks to years of ongoing abuse, and this has caused you to give in to their manipulative ways. They prey on you because they think they can, and because, until now, you may have tolerated it. But, guess what? You don’t have to take it anymore. You deserve to be happy, to feel peaceful, and to feel SAFE in your home. The narcissist takes all of that away from you – and my friend, you deserve better.

How to Deal with the Lack of Respect

If you have struggled with narcissistic abuse, you will want to focus on what you can do to first heal, and then you’ll want to work on becoming the person you truly want to be. This will help you along the path of learning to first accept and then to love and respect yourself. It might feel like letting yourself feel empowered in the narcissist’s presence more difficult at least at first – and that is usually true. So, if you need to, practice with people who you trust and even strangers out in the world.

And remember: Going no contact is a form of self-care. If you were the sort of person who really wanted revenge on the narcissist, remember that the narcissist needs narcissistic supply like a vampire needs blood – and going no contact will remove you (and therefore their source of narcissistic supply, or at least one of them).

So, while the narcissist isn’t capable of functional respect (as in the kind of respect that causes them to treat you compassionately, civilly, and as an equal), leaving them in the dust while you go and have an intentionally created life that you actually love? Well, that’ll make them realize that not only did they lose the best thing that ever happened to them, but also that they’ve underestimated you and maybe even that you’re too good for them. But either way, you’ll be the one winning the relationship, much to their chagrin.

You Have to Respect Yourself First

This part is really important. When we are enmeshed in relationships with toxic people, we often put our own self-respect on the back burner – and that’s IF we’ve ever had any to begin with. See, when we are raised by toxic people or when we experience significant trauma in childhood, we learn that our own self-respect is a problem for other people. We learn that in order to get love and validation, we need to become what others want us to be. And when we can’t become something we’re not, we lose respect for ourselves – but even if we CAN become what others want us to be, we end up putting our own desires, strengths, passions, and talents aside in order to keep those people happy. This leads to a feeling of something being “just not right,” or we feel like something is “missing” from our lives. Even if we’re self-aware enough to know exactly what is missing, we don’t see a way to actually make it happen without upsetting someone – so we just…don’t.

All of that rolled up in a big ugly ball leads us to not respect ourselves. And when we don’t respect ourselves, we are inadvertently accepting unacceptable treatment from people who do not even deserve our time. So when we start respecting ourselves, we STOP accepting that behavior.

How do you learn to respect yourself?

It all starts with learning to first accept yourself, completely, without condition, as you are in any given moment. This is a tough one for someone who has been abused by a narcissist because it feels almost unnatural to say to yourself: “I am okay with myself right now, in this moment, flaws and all.” 

But push past that and give it a shot. Make sure you listen carefully to that little “inner voice” that is always taking in your head – your inner dialogue. And correct it when it is wrong. Correct it when it sounds less like you and more like the toxic people in your life.  Journal often, and honestly. Speak about yourself kindly or at least without negativity – to yourself and to others.

Don’t assume that someone else’s opinion of yourself is the truth. If you’re worried about what someone else says, look closely and be honest with yourself – is there something you want to change? If not, be okay with who you are and accept that no one is perfect. It is normal and human to have flaws.

Don’t do things to gain the approval of anyone else unless it benefits you to do so. For example, you wouldn’t want to go against your morals and ethics to make a narcissist happy, but let’s say you were given the opportunity to audition for a part in a movie, and that was something you wanted to do. In that case, you might make an effort to gain the approval of the casting director, and that is okay. See the difference?

Ultimately, self-respect begins with how you treat yourself and how you expect others to treat you. When you treat yourself lie you matter, others will begin to do the same. And those who won’t? They’ll see themselves out of your life post-haste. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing!

Question of the Day: Have you ever been able to make a narcissist actually respect you? Have you tried? Share your thoughts, share your experiences, share your ideas in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it!

 

 

 

40 Red-Flag Signs Your Relationship Might Be Toxic

40 Red-Flag Signs Your Relationship Might Be Toxic

Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships is both confusing and debilitating for the victim of the narcissist. But what is interesting is that nearly everyone who has experienced it can relate to certain issues that come up. In fact, you might be surprised to learn how often we hear the same questions, again and again.

For people who are surviving narcissistic abuse, some of the most common questions I hear from my coaching clients are the following. 

Questions like these are asked so often that you might be shocked. But I get it because I’ve been there personally – as have all of our narcissistic abuse recovery coaches and counselors here at QueenBeing.  In fact, that’s exactly why we do what we do! We’re here to provide the validation a survivor seeks to help with moving forward. The truth is that getting out of toxic relationships often feels impossible without some validation that the relationship is indeed as bad as you think it is. 

Without a psychologist’s diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, we may wonder if we’re misunderstanding things. Because we can’t personally diagnose the abusive person, we doubt ourselves and we wonder if there’s something we could be doing to cause the problems in our relationships.

The thing is that, quite frankly, a label does not matter. What matters is how you are treated in the relationship – and how you feel when you spend time with that person. 

Toxic is toxic.

The struggle to even know if your relationship is toxic is totally normal with emotional abuse. Many of the mistreatments and abuse can be covert and almost impossible to describe. Check out this list of signs that your relationship may be toxic if you need support and validation. Hopefully, this will help you see some common ways people know things are unhealthy and can help you make the decision that is right for your healing and life.  

Some signs of a toxic relationship:

  1. You walk on eggshells.
  2. You are confused by any conflict because it feels like your reality is being twisted (gaslighting).
  3. You are required to check-in and it feels like your every move is monitored. You have anxiety if you do not check-in or check-in late. 
  4. You feel sad when your partner jokes with you because the jokes feel like hidden criticism or emotional attacks. This is especially true for those who normally find joking to be a fun way to enjoy communication with others.
  5. You apologize when you have done nothing wrong.
  6. You fear “hot and cold” moods so you are trying all the time to keep the peace or fix things.
  7. You are hyper-vigilant over your partner’s mood.
  8. You feel like your partner never sees the good in you and that they belittle your achievements. 
  9. You feel like sex is an obligation or even happens against your will. They threaten to leave you if you do not have sex.
  10. They continually withhold sex and you feel dirty or ashamed for wanting it. 
  11. You feel like there is no connection during sex; you are dissociating.
  12. Stress in the relationship causes you to space out or dissociate easily.
  13. You make excuses for your partner’s behaviors or you rationalize the abuse.
  14. Holidays or vacations are stressful to plan because you fear the fun will be sabotaged by your partner.
  15. You notice your insecurities are used against you.
  16. You are desperately trying to “make things like they used to be” and make it like it was in the beginning.
  17. You are soothing and reassuring the abuser after mistreatment happens to you.
  18. You can not talk about issues within the relationship.
  19. You can not safely talk about issues your partner may have that you feel hurt you or the relationship.
  20. You feel shame about yourself for qualities you have that your partner once used to like. 
  21. You feel like communication is shut down and you feel unheard.
  22. You are treated nicer in public than you are at home. The abuse is hidden.
  23. You are begging or pleading for them to end silent treatments.
  24. You are told that you are too sensitive, even if you were just treated horribly.
  25. Your feelings are minimized, belittled, ignored, or negated.
  26. You are feeling jealous when you normally are not a jealous person.
  27. You feel like you are being compared to others.
  28. You are cut off and isolated.
  29. You are constantly protecting your partner’s ego.
  30. You feel the majority of responsibility for making the relationship work out.
  31. You feel like you are the abuser and are told you are when you know what is being said you did not do. The things they do they accuse you of.
  32. You have anxiety.
  33. You have body pain. 
  34. You feel like you are not enough and can not satisfy your partner in the relationship.
  35. Everything feels like a competition with them.
  36. Things you enjoy you do not like doing with your partner around.
  37. You are afraid of making any decisions alone.
  38. You can’t identify your boundaries.
  39. You can not pursue your dreams. You have lost touch with your own ambitions and dreams for your life.
  40. You have lost your sense of self. You don’t really know who you are anymore.

Videos: More Signs You’re Dealing with Narcissistic Abuse in a Toxic Relationship

How to Spot a Narcissist (Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship)

12 Signs You Love a Toxic Narcissist

Get personal support in your narcissistic abuse recovery.

Empath and Codependent Are Not Synonyms

Empath and Codependent Are Not Synonyms

I’ve got two questions for you. Are all empaths codependent? Are all codependents empaths? I think it’s time we clear up some confusion for our community. You often hear people in the narcissistic abuse community talking about empaths and codependents as though the terms were interchangeable. The thing is, they aren’t. What I mean is that while some codependents are empaths, not all empaths are codependents. In other words, they are two separate concepts that some people have mistaken for synonyms. Let me explain.

(Watch this video or keep reading) To understand the difference between empaths and codependents, first, we need to define empathy and codependency.

What is Empathy?

There are three types of empathy – cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. Emotional and compassionate empathy seems to be intrinsic for most people, and cognitive empathy can be learned. So, an adult empath would be able to logically understand what a person would feel, be emotionally affected by what they feel, and also be moved to take action to help them deal with what they feel. For example, an empath might, at the age of 3, notice when someone is hurting and try to comfort them, even if that person doesn’t say anything about it or indicate directly that something is wrong. The child might not understand logically or have the vocabulary to describe what they do understand, but when they instinctively comfort someone, there’s no question that they understand. At the same time, an adult narcissist, who would not be considered an empath, would be able to logically understand what you feel, but they wouldn’t be emotionally affected by it for the most part, at least not in a normal way, and they would not be moved to help you deal with it unless it benefited them to do so in some way.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is when you are dependent on another person in unhealthy ways. It seems to be, in most cases, affected by some form of trauma that often occurred in childhood. It is also considered a behavioral condition as it inhibits your ability to have a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship. A good synonym for codependency might be “relationship addiction” because codependents tend to be perpetually involved in relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive.

The Differences Between Codependents and Empaths

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s discuss empaths and codependents. We understand that empathy and codependency are different. So, why do people in the narcissistic abuse recovery community so often confuse the term “empath” with the term “codependent,” if they’re two distinct terms that aren’t synonymous? The answer is as simple as it is complicated. It’s because there are many codependents who do happen to be empaths. But then, there are many who are not.

And, of course, just consider the definition of codependency. As it turns out, toxic narcissists can also be considered codependents, given their excessive need for attention, adoration, and narcissistic supply. They clearly need to be dependent on others for their emotional validation and all of that tasty, tasty supply. But even though they require so much of your emotional energy, they do not have emotional or compassionate energy, so they do often emotionally neglect and abuse their so-called loved ones. Therefore, by definition, they are codependent, but they can’t be considered empaths.

What is an empath?

If you are an empath, you’re highly sensitive to the emotions and energy of the people around you. Empaths tend to be very intuitive and may also be spiritually inclined. In other words, if you’re an empath, you’re someone who naturally “feels” the emotions of other people and acts in accordance. Empaths, however, seem to have a more natural inclination toward naturally understanding the psychology of both humans and animals.

Are Empaths Rare?

Most humans above the age of two or three have some ability to show empathy, which is, on its most basic level just the ability to perceive what other people feel on some level. And many animals seem to have some level of empathy, even for humans, as evidenced by pets who appear to show concern when their owners are feeling blue. But there are different levels of sensitivity when it comes to empathy, and those who are at the highest end of that spectrum might be rare. Still, even the most basic understanding of and concern for others’ feelings makes life easier for everyone.

Are Empaths Real?

Some people seem to think that empathy is a supernatural ability. But while on some level, there are things we don’t understand about empathy, there is a lot of scientific research that explains how it works. In fact, a study focused on a specific type of empathy called mirror-touch synaesthesia offers some very interesting insight that supports the idea that empaths exist. Mirror-touch synaesthesia is the ability to feel a sensation of touch when you see someone else being touched. Study authors Dr. Michael Banissy at the Goldsmiths University of London, along with researcher Dr. Natalie Bowling, the research found that up to 2 percent of the population could be considered empaths.

Why Do Some People Have More Empathy Than Others?

Clearly, there are some people who seem to be more personally affected by empathy than others. For example, someone who might be considered a natural empath would have a clearer and more comprehensive intrinsic understanding of how people feel. Using this natural ability, empaths can quickly interpret a person’s thoughts and feelings.

“The scientific studies that are often used to demonstrate that empaths exist, however, provide indirect evidence,” said Kristen Milstead in a 2018 PsychCentral article.”This includes research showing the existence of mirror neurons in the brain, which are said to enable us to read and understand each other’s emotions by filtering them through our own. Other studies used to explain empaths include the concept of emotional contagion, which is the idea that when people synchronize their attitudes, behaviors, and speech, they also synchronize their emotions both consciously and unconsciously.”

Milstead noted that while the studies explained the existence of empathy as a concept, they didn’t make it clear why some people seem to have a higher sensitivity to it than others. So for now, the idea that there is a supernatural element to being an empath isn’t completely disproven, but that doesn’t mean that scientists won’t decode it in the future. After all, there were once people who worshipped the Sun. Science has a way of explaining things we don’t understand.

Signs of Being Codependent

If you really want to understand the differences between codependents and empaths, it can help to see the signs of each. While you may be both, you may also just be one or the other. People who are codependent typically have the following behaviors.

  1. Codependents struggle to make decisions alone, especially where their decisions would affect their partner in any way.
  2. Codependents may find themselves having a hard time identifying their own feelings.
  3. Codependents might have a hard time communicating in their relationships – even if they’re really good at communicating in other ways and with other people.
  4. Codependents are more concerned with getting the approval of people outside of themselves.
  5. Codependents have low self-esteem.
  6. Codependents may not trust their own instincts and intuition.
  7. Codependents may have an unhealthy level of fear of abandonment.
  8. Codependents may need approval to the point that they’ll even go against their own ethics in order to get it.
  9. Codependents might feel overly responsible for the actions and behaviors of other people.
  10. Codependents are inevitably miserable if they’re not in a relationship, and they’ll stay in a relationship that is harmful to them because they might feel as if it’s better than being alone.

Any of that sound familiar to you? Now, let’s talk about the signs you’re an empath.

Signs You’re an Empath

How do you know if you are an empath? While there are no easily available scientific tests that would prove your empath abilities, there are empath self-assessments, such as the one here, that will help you to recognize yourself as someone who might be an empath. There are, of course, both positive and negative sides of being an empath – and some of them overlap.

1. Empaths Can Be Targeted by Toxic People

Empaths often deal with overwhelming feelings as it is, so when a relationship is toxic, they will feel like they are in agony. They often end up going numb because they feel like they might not survive otherwise. Narcissists and other toxic people seem to be drawn to empaths. Most likely, that’s because empaths are generally moved into action by the emotions of other people. So, when the empath knows you are sad or upset, they do what they can to comfort you. When someone screams and yells at an empath, they will do whatever they can to resolve whatever the person is screaming about.

It doesn’t occur to an empath to feel angry at someone who is so clearly distressed. THAT is what attracts toxic people – the fact that the empath is so focused on making sure they are comfortable and happy in any given moment. It makes for an ideal source of narcissistic supply. And, since an empath is completely focused on them, they won’t have to do much to keep them happy.

See, if an empath is feeling needy and reaches out for validation, they will quickly forget their feelings if the other person expresses strong feelings of their own in the moment. This nature leads empaths who aren’t aware of these types of manipulations to miss the fact that they’re actually not being nourished in the relationship.

They end up starving for validation – giving and giving until they sort of burn out (literally in some cases through adrenal fatigue associated with C-PTSD). The empath ends up drained of their so-called light: they have little energy – they literally are almost “not even there” in some ways. They have grown so emotionally broken that they have literally stopped experiencing these emotions.

2. Empaths Find Large Crowds Are Draining

You will not find a happy empath at a Black Friday sale. In general, empaths can only take crowds in small doses, if at all. That’s why a lot of them don’t like large parties or concerts. And when an empath does spend too much time in crowds, most of them really need to take some time alone before and afterward in order to recharge. If they don’t, they will feel exhausted and tired for days or weeks afterward. In some cases, they may even physical effects, which brings me to my next point.

3. Empaths Need Plenty Of Time Alone

Most empaths require time alone to recharge, especially when they’ve dealt with emotionally difficult situations such as crowds, but also through various interpersonal interactions with people in their lives. An empath who is also an introvert may prefer to be alone more often than not. But even empaths who appear to be more outgoing will still need that alone time – or become unbalanced without it. However, an introvert that is not an empath would need, in general, less alone time for winding down. And in the case of codependents, whether they’re empaths or not, they may feel that they don’t want time alone at all, for any reason. This is one way that an empath can manifest emotional and/or psychological damage caused by their toxic relationships.

4. Empaths Feel Their Way Around New Places

Empaths seem to feel the energy of any location in which they happen to be. In a calm, clean, and organized place that is lit with candles and has soft colors, for example, an empath might feel calm. They might sense relaxing and positive energy. On the flip side, if an empath walked into a room where a crime was committed (sometimes even if they were unaware that a crime was committed there), or if they walked into a room directly after a confrontation as small as a marital spat – they would FEEL the energy buzzing without question, They’d even ask something like, “you guys okay? or “should I come back later?” They might feel uncomfortable or be physically affected, but not be able to put their finger on WHY they know something is wrong. They just know. Ya know?

This video offers 10 more signs that you might be an empath.

Still not sure?

Ever Worry You Might Be the Narcissist in Your Relationship?

Ever Worry You Might Be the Narcissist in Your Relationship?

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a malignant narcissist or someone who has narcissistic personality disorder, you might have wondered on more than one occasion whether you are the narcissist in the relationship. Thanks to the gaslighting and manipulation involved in the relationship, a toxic partner, friend, or family member may have convinced you tha you are, in fact, the one who is toxic and that they are the innocent victim. So, how do you know if you’re the narcissist – or not?  What if You’re the Narcissist? (See video on YouTube or read below).

What’s the Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Narcissism?

Would you be offended if I told you that you have at least a little bit of narcissism in your personality? It’s actually the truth! See, every single one of us has some amount of narcissism.

At its most basic level, narcissism is simple self-interest, so just the fact that you woke up this morning, maybe got dressed and fed yourself? That is an indication of narcissism. Getting your hair done or wearing outfits that you love can be considered narcissistic. Thinking you’re attractive, or smart, or in any way a good person? Also narcissism. But there’s a difference between someone who cares about themselves and someone who is what we call a “malignant” narcissist.

So, let’s talk about that. One of the biggest things that people ask me when they first find my videos, articles, books or podcasts is, “but isn’t EVERYONE a narcissist?” And my answer is always yes. But…there’s more to it than that. See, there is such a thing as “healthy narcissism,” and then there’s what we call “malignant” or “toxic narcissism.”

Healthy Narcissism vs Unhealthy Narcissism

Whether it’s due to our culture, our technology, our parents, or some other cause, a larger percentage of narcissists seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Some people are even calling it an epidemic. And of course, in the past couple of years, tons of new so-called experts have come out of the woodwork, MOST of them doing the work because they have found someone like me and healed, so they’re trying to give back. There are some who aren’t so genuine in their efforts, but we won’t give them any more focus than they deserve.

Is there a narcissism epidemic?

As news and gossip around certain well-known narcissist-types swirl through the media and our minds these days, you’ve got to wonder if maybe there is a narcissism epidemic, right? In any case, there seems to be evidence of an increase in narcissism in our society, and there are those who would argue that there is a certain amount of narcissism that is healthy for most people.

Would you be totally shocked that I agree with “them,” that there is a certain amount of narcissism that is necessary to survive and certainly thrive in the world these days? It’s true. But a healthy amount of narcissism looks a lot more like a dedication to one’s own happiness and success – along with the ability to empathize with and generally care for other people and their feelings.

How do you know what’s healthy when it comes to narcissism?

What does healthy narcissism really look like? Well, it starts with self-esteem. It looks like loving (or at least being okay with) yourself and understanding that you have value without the need for excessive outside validation. It means that you don’t need people around you to be “less than” you in order to feel validated.

It’s being able to be genuinely happy for another person’s success and able to admit it if you feel a little jealous of it. It’s using those feelings to push you to inspiration and success, rather than to feel insecure and threatened by it.

And this next part is especially important. Healthy narcissism must coexist with healthy empathy skills. That is exactly the difference between a toxic narcissist (or sociopath, or person with narcissistic personality disorder/NPD) and a healthy person with a healthy amount of narcissism.

In fact, I personally feel that compassionate empathy – or the lack thereof – is the tipping point between relatively healthy narcissism and malignant narcissism.

When does it turn into malignant or toxic narcissism?

Officially, a malignant narcissist is a person who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) along with other antisocial features, paranoid traits, and ego-driven aggression. They may also exhibit an absence of conscience, a psychological need for power, and an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement.

But here’s the part that’s really important here – it’s the empathy thing. When we say “narcissists have no empathy,” we don’t necessarily mean that they’re not capable of figuring out what you’re feeling. What we mean is that narcissists don’t FEEL empathy in the same way as most people do. They have no compassion, no remorse and they don’t feel regret – unless they regret a choice they made because it negatively affected them directly.

What I mean is that a narcissist cannot feel genuine empathy, and often, unless it benefits them directly, they don’t even pretend to understand how you feel.  Of course, when it suits them, they are more than happy to use the ability to read people in order to manipulate them. In fact, even in the cases where they appear to understand emotion, it’s only to their benefit that they use that ability – only when and if it’s required to get what they want from you. THAT is “cognitive empathy.”

And there’s a big difference between the kind of empathy a narcissist displays and actual empathy. To clarify, in general, real empathy is the ability to sense, understand, and feel the emotions of someone else, even if you haven’t had an identical experience. Now, real empathy might be cognitive, emotional, and/or compassionate.

But either way, real empathy means, on some level, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You can feel what they are feeling even if you cannot relate to what they are going through directly because you can sort of imagine how they must feel. You feel compassion for them and you care about their feelings because of this – and then you act accordingly.

False empathy is sadly used as a manipulation tactic by narcissists when they want something from you. As emotionally delayed as they are, narcissists are usually relatively intellectually inclined. They can “think about” what someone else is feeling, but it doesn’t affect their emotional state directly, nor does it play a part in how they treat the other person.

Malignant Narcissists Do Not Recognize Boundaries

Narcissists by nature are wired to do whatever is necessary to get what they want, and they do this in varying degrees of intensity, often pushing their victims to the point of emotional exhaustion, isolation, depression, and even various forms of PTSD – and then there are the physical symptoms involved with emotional and psychological abuse.

Considering who these people are and how much they seem to need from the people closest to them, you won’t be surprised to know that they are quite often attracted to their polar opposites, for obvious reasons. While a toxic narcissist will create excessive “rules” for you and will enforce them even to their own detriment at times, they will refuse to accept your own boundaries, and often, if you do have the nerve to try to express those boundaries to the narcissist directly, they will actually intentionally cross them, just because you asked them not to do so.

It is one more way they show you they’re in control. This may start off small at the beginning of your relationship. For example, let’s say you have a new friend who might be a toxic narcissist. You tell them early in the relationship that you really prefer they call you before they drop by. They do at first, but over time, there are little drop-ins that you don’t expect. They’re just dropping off that thing they borrowed from you that one time, what’s the big deal? Or they just happened to be in the neighborhood, but they forgot to call. Do you mind making them a little something to eat?

Then, before you know it, they’ve got their own key and they stop by anytime it pleases them. And they complain if your house isn’t company-ready. Yep. They will slowly push your boundaries bit-by-bit until they completely obliterate them.

Why do we accept this?

We tolerate this kind of abuse for a few different reasons – and you might be surprised to learn why. But here’s the thing. Often, when we end up in toxic relationships with narcissists, we also may have been raised by them – or at least, deeply affected in childhood by some form of abuse or trauma.

Many times, that does come from a disapproving or controlling parent – or a directly abusive one. Or, in some cases, our parents may have just been really neglectful of our emotional and/or physical needs. Let’s talk about why the narcissist chose you and how this is connected to the suffering you’re facing in this toxic relationship.

What do narcissists look for in a partner or friend?

Narcissists seek out empathic, highly intuitive people for a reason – we care about how people feel and we are driven to action by their intense emotional outbursts. This is because growing up, someone taught us that in order to receive love, we needed to keep them happy by doing SOMETHING – we either had to live up to their particular standards for us (and often, those were impossible standards), or we had to stay out of their way, or we had to do whatever they told us to do, or whatever your parent’s particular needs and demands were.

We learned that love was not unconditional, even where it should’ve been, and we learned that our value wasn’t in our individual selves so much as it was in our ability to serve the toxic person in our lives. So, we became people pleasers and we learned that loving someone meant to do anything we could to make or keep them happy, regardless of the personal cost to ourselves and our mental or physical health.

There is also the issues that go along with trauma bonding that complicate things and may lead to C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder).

And let’s not forget how easy it can be to love bomb us – as people-pleasers, we are wired to want people to like us, and to seek the best in everyone. We are willing to put up with being treated like we don’t matter, and we are trained to literally put other people before our own HEALTH even – just to make them happy and to feel like they love us – even though that is clearly not the truth. See how that might make for an ideal source of narcissistic supply?

Narcissists Make You Feel Unlovable

In case you didn’t catch it – and just to remind you – the people who taught you that you weren’t lovable unless you served them and met all of their demands – they were wrong. Actual love doesn’t require you to give to the point of physical illness, or to put your own mental health on the back burner, or to ALWAYS give in and do what the other person wants, even when it’s against your moral, ethical, or personal beliefs. Real love doesn’t require you to give until you’re completely drained and never get anything in return. While a “real love” relationship might sometimes look like 40/60 or 70/30 in certain situations, the “average” ratio of give and take should be close to 50/50.

Bottom Line on the difference between healthy and unhealthy narcissism? Healthy narcissism is self-focus, self-confidence, self-interest, and personal drive, but these qualities must coexist with a healthy concern for others and the ability to genuinely empathize with them.

Unhealthy, malignant narcissism and NPD involve the lack of emotional and compassionate empathy and concern for others, combined with an unhealthy amount of self-focus. And of course, this kind of narcissistic person is secretly quite insecure and very troubled, in some cases – but you may never know that unless you look beyond the smoke and mirrors.

Question of the Day: Do you know a malignant narcissist who displays unhealthy empathy? How have they affected you and your life? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, and share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.

You Might Also Enjoy These Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Resources:

Narcissism Self-Assessments

Videos On How to Identify and Deal With a Malignant Narcissist

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