When you think of the term codependency, you may think about someone who is relying on substance abuse. But that isn’t always the case.
What is Codependency?
Codependencyis 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 layman’s terms, codependency is being too dependent on others to the point that they cannot function on their own. It happens often in relationships whereas two people are too invested in one another to the point that the one who is too dependent on the other struggles to be independent.
Contrary to Popular Belief: Codependent and Empath Are Not Synonyms
Are all empaths codependent? Are all codependents empaths? I’m helping to clear up a common misconception in the narcissistic abuse recovery community in this video. See, 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.
How to Know If You’re Codependent in a Toxic Relationship
So, if you have a codependent personality, you are highly likely to end up with someone who is dominant for that obvious reason. You’ll struggle to think and do things on your own without your partner. Are you codependent? Let’s look at the 5 signs that point to the possibility that you could be.
1. You Don’t Trust Yourself
If you are codependent, you struggle with trusting yourself. You don’t think you can make decisions without someone else backing you up. This is a sign that you have low self-esteem and seriously impaired self-confidence. This combined with the fact that you might not believe in yourself anyway can lead to a lack of trust in your own intuition and even perception of the world. This can lead to learned helplessness that makes you fear taking action without the approval of someone else. This can take you to the point that you have to rely on others to tell you what to do, say think, and feel in extreme cases.
2. You Need Validation: The Approval Of Others Means More Than Your Own
It could devastate you if you did a creative project and worked very hard on it, but you didn’t get the approval from others that you wanted or expected. It’s normal to want others to acknowledge your work, but someone who is not codependent will realize that everyone’s taste will not match their style and the approval of others has no effect on what they do. That is just one common example of codependency. If you don’t value yourself, and you do things to gain the approval of others, you’ve got a problem. Stop being a people-pleaser and try focusing on what really makes YOU happy!
If you are not sure how you are feeling whether you are sad, happy, excited, or bored, that can be a sign of codependency. In other words, your feelings are based on the way that your partner feels. If they are angry, you may be as well, but you will not know why and you will not be able to identify why. You might dissociate from your own feelings and no longer be able to identify them. You might also struggle with regulating your emotions.
You are terrified of being abandoned because you don’t believe you will be able to function on your own. The idea of being abandoned is no different than a part of your body disappearing which can render you not being able to function at all.
It’s important to understand that the fear of abandonment is a normal human fear. Often, narcissistic abuse survivors suffer from emotional abandonment during and after their toxic relationships. Emotional abandonment is an emotional state caused by someone making you feel undesired, left behind, insecure, or discarded.
When you feel emotionally abandoned, you often feel lost. It happens when you are essentially cut off from a crucial source of affection (such as a significant relationship with a parent or spouse), or financial or emotional security that has been withdrawn, either suddenly, or through a process of erosion over time.
You may be in an abusive relationship but you will not think of leaving because you feel like you have to be with that partner, no matter how abusive they are. You cannot fathom the idea of being alone, and you doubt your ability to function alone. Unhealthy relationships may also be referred to as toxic relationships.
You may be dealing with trauma bonding if you’re in a longer-term toxic relationship of any kind. Similar to a dysfunctional relationship, but less repairable, this kind of relationship involves more negativity than positivity, and it doesn’t emotionally support one or both of the people involved. An abusive, toxic relationship often involves resentment, contempt, communication problems, and varying forms of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.
“We all come from dysfunctional families. The issue is not whether our family was dysfunctional but whether we can put meaning to the experience of our lives.” ~ Stephen Porges, author of the Polyvagal Theory
I had a narcissistic abuse recovery counseling client who was really struggling with deep childhood trauma combined with a psychopathic ex who had horribly abused her since she was a teen. Now that she was free, she was feeling anything BUT. In fact, she felt frozen in fear, nearly all the time.
Are you living in a constant state of fear?
Can you relate to living in a constant state of fight or flight, or worse, freeze? That was this woman’s reality. She had tried traditional therapy and spent thousands of dollars on various doctors, practitioners, and even alternative medicine. Yet, she was still at a complete standstill in her recovery and she still felt fearful and miserable every day. I deeply felt for her, and I really wanted to help. So, I started digging to help her find a solution to overcome her C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms so she could heal.
That is what led me to Dr. Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory. My client found significant relief, and I learned new ways to help people in narcissistic abuse recovery.
What is Polyvagal Theory?
According to Porges, “The polyvagal theory describes an autonomic nervous system that is influenced by the central nervous system, sensitive to afferent influences, characterized by an adaptive reactivity dependent on the phylogeny of the neural circuits, and interactive with source nuclei in the brainstem regulating the striated muscles of the face and head.” Read more about Polyvagal Theory in Porges’ 2009 paper, here.
In this brief video, Dr. Stephen Porges explains offers an explanation of his Polyvagal Theory and how it works.
How can we use Polyvagal Theory and vagus nerve stimulation to help us heal from narcissistic abuse and trauma?
Going through a toxic relationship often leaves victims feeling fearful to a debilitating level. For most of us, it affects our nervous system in profound ways. In some cases, survivors find themselves living in a constant state of anxiety based on the feeling that they need to be constantly on guard – hypervigilance. This makes it almost impossible for them to relax or even to feel “normal.” They feel FROZEN or STUCK.
Through the use of vagus nerve stimulation as described by Dr. Porges in Polyvagal Theory, many survivors find relief of their C-PTSD symptoms. Even better, these exercises can be done by almost anyone from the comfort of their own home – or anywhere they happen to be.
Self-Help Exercises for CPTSD Symptoms Based on Polyvagal Theory
In THIS VIDEO, I talk about a theory developed by Dr. Stephen Porges that could change the way we heal trauma, and once I’ve given you a brief overview of the theory, I’m going to share some self-help exercises that you can do at home to help you get through the hard times.
As I mentioned, one of my clients found herself stuck, afraid and feeling frozen, and she had tried everything but struggled to find relief. After discovering what I’m going to show you today, she began to find some relief. As I learned more about the theory, I shared some of its ideas with other clients in similar situations.
In the majority of these cases, they were able to find some relief all on their own by doing surprisingly simple at-home exercises. Several reported that they felt these simple exercises made a significant difference in their ability to feel safe enough to recover.
The Role of the Vagus Nerve in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Porges proposes in his polyvagal theory that the vagus nerve has more function than previously thought and that the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous systems are only part of the equation in how people react to the environment and trauma. Because the theory is very complicated, I’m only providing a very high-level overview and focus on the parts that will specifically help us as survivors. The Polyvagal Theory says that the parasympathetic nervous system is not only associated with relaxation but also symptoms of PTSD.
Porges developed the theory to help us understand this dual function of the parasympathetic nervous system. It points to a human survival mechanism in which the parasympathetic nervous system leads us to FREEZE or “faint” in the face of a life-threatening event. Most importantly, the polyvagal theory teaches you to engage your social nervous system to consciously slow down your defensive system.
This allows you to finally find freedom from CPTSD symptoms and to feel safe. In other words, Porges’s theory makes us look beyond the effects of fight or flight and put social relationships in the forefront so we can understand our symptoms better.
Additional Resources for Learning About Polyvagal Theory
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
If you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might have found yourself avoiding social situations and feeling a lot of anxiety when you’re forced to go out into the world. And if you consider yourself an empath, this could be magnified by your ability to sort of “feel” everyone around you. I know that’s been the case for me in the past. Whether you could be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD) or you just struggle with social situations, it could be a result of your toxic relationship.
Also called “social phobia,” social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes you to have an extreme, unrelenting fear of being watched and especially judged by people, including not only strangers but also people you know. This crippling fear can affect your ability to function in the world – whether at work, school, or any of your other daily activities. Many sufferers of SAD report that it is difficult for them to make and keep friends.
What does SAD have to do with narcissistic abuse recovery?
Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships can cause you to feel overwhelmed and isolated on their own, but they also cause what psychologists call a “toxic internal environment” that can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, and a wide variety of other physical health problems. Social anxiety can be a side-effect of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) as well – and many survivors of narcissistic abuse suffer from C-PTSD.
Consider this: a 12.2-year study that launched in 1985 and followed more than 10,000 people found that people who reported being in unhealthy or negative relationships were far more likely to develop heart problems, including a fatal heart attack or cardiac event, than study participants who had healthier, less negative relationships.
And on a more practical level, since narcissists are so likely to isolate and control us in these relationships, we become hypervigilant of their moods and behaviors and this can leave us not only exhausted emotionally but also unwilling or unable to deal with other people during the relationship. This could be because we are too overwhelmed by the narcissist’s need for attention and supply or because we grow tired of trying to behave “correctly” in public (so that the narcissist doesn’t further abuse us when we get home). It could also be for a number of other reasons (or a combination of reasons).
What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD)?
According to NIMH, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
Be very afraid that other people will judge them
Stay away from places where there are other people
What does social anxiety disorder (SAD) feel like?
One of the worst aspects of suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder is the feeling that you are entirely isolated and alone in the world – even (and sometimes especially) if you’re in a room full of people. It can feel as if you are cut off from the world and your inner self. Worse, it feels like you have no control over the bad feelings and that you’re trapped forever in feeling anxious and alone.
It may be helpful to hear that even if you’re feeling alone, there are some symptoms that therapists have noted are the hallmarks of SAD and just about everyone suffers from them.
The feeling that no one understands you.
When you’re in the grip of social anxiety, it feels like you are cut off from everyone and that no one can understand what it feels like inside your head, not even your therapist or your best friend.
You’re trapped forever in anxiety
SAD transcends time and space. It feels as though you’re stuck in a cycle of perpetual anxiety, even though part of you knows that SAD doesn’t define you and that no matter how severe your current flare-up is, it will pass. Anxiety tells you that you are stuck and can’t move out of the trap you’re in, even if your rational mind understands it’s not like that.
You feel like a fish out of water.
Chronic anxiety feeds on negative messages that tell you over and over that you don’t belong, you don’t fit in, that there’s something wrong with you. The deeper you get into this negative mindset, the more isolated and alienated you feel, and you withdraw from friends and family. A vicious cycle sets in to keep you apart and deepen the feeling of alienation.
A negative mindset takes over
When you’re suffering from anxiety, you tend to look at the world through very gray-colored glasses. Your brain’s default setting becomes irrational and negative. You can misinterpret things people say or do, even kindly-meant advice from your therapist or counselor.
That can spill over into feeling like a failure. You can fall into a spiral of self-criticism and self-loathing, raking over perceived mistakes and failures from the past.
Social anxiety can make you feel as though you have a layer of psychological skin missing. You feel self-conscious like everyone is looking at you and judging you. You worry over every little detail of your behavior, your clothes, what you say and what you do.
The self-loathing and stress that comes with chronic social anxiety can make it virtually impossible to live in the moment and get on with enjoying life.
Note: Because this issue is so prevalent for narcissistic abuse survivors, I’m working on a new course on the subject over at Life Makeover Academy. I’m currently searching for people to beta-test the course. While it’s normally a $99 course, I’m offering it to people who are willing to beta-test it for half-price. If you are interested in testing the course and sharing your thoughts with me, you can click here to get lifetime access to the course (and all future updates/additional material) for just $49. Please note: the beta testing period will close at the end of July, when the course will be ready to roll out at full price, so get in there now if you are interested.
You might also enjoy this video I made on the topic.
Depression, characterized by erratic mood swings, loss of interest in hobbies and activities is a very serious emotional disorder affecting about 9.5 per cent of the nation.
Needless to say, it is could be a lot more fatal if a depressed person is heading towards suicide.
Therefore, here are some signs to know if your loved one is considering suicide as a result of depression.
Depression Suicide: Warning Signs to be Aware of
1. Mentions of Suicide or Death
2. Wanting to tie up loose ends or give away personal belongings
3. Engaging in reckless behavior such as heavy alcohol and drug use
4. Withdrawing from family and friends
5. Erratic mood swings
6. Inappropriately saying goodbye.
7. Verbal behavior that is ambiguous or indirect: (for example: “I want to go to sleep and never wake up.”, “I’m so depressed, I just can’t go on.”, “Does God punish suicides?”
Though the signs and warnings may vary from person to person, it is important that you are able to recognize such warnings and take some steps to help your loved one.
Helping a loved one who is showing signs of Depression Suicide
If you believe someone is contemplating suicide do seek help immediately, however there are a several suicide prevention web sites and hotlines available to help those in need, but in case these are not within your reach, you can try the following:
1. Cultivate Physical Closeness: Simple hugs, kisses on the cheeks, loving pats and compliments go a long way in healing a broken heart or depressed mind. Remember, sometimes the little things DO count.
2. If the person is acutely suicidal, do not leave him or her alone.
3. Remember: suicidal behavior is a cry for help. Thus if someone contemplating suicide turns to you, it is likely that he believes that you are more caring and more informed about coping with depression, and more willing to help. This in itself is a positive, thus it will be time to empower yourself to be what a suicidal person views you to be; stronger and you are.
4. Other steps to take include reassuring them that help is available and that with appropriate treatment they can feel better. Try not to patronize them by simply telling them that “everything will be fine,” or that “they have everything to live for.
5. Try to search the house for dangerous items such as guns and knives that could be potentially harmful.
In addition to the factors above, if you are of a spiritual inclination, this will be a good time to pray according to the framework of your faith. Indeed, prayer when used effectively can work wonders to aid in curtailing depression suicide.
Moreover, in the hopes that your loved one begins to show signs of improvement from the warnings indicating depression suicide, it will be great to start to include such drug-free approaches for depression treatment such as exercise: namely Yoga, a proper diet for physical health which in turn heals the mind and positive thinking and affirmations.
Naturally we all would get concerned or frightened if a loved one seems on the brink of suicide resulting from depression, however as with all life’s problems, if we can catch it early and nip it in the bud, depression suicide can be prevented. If things may have gotten more advanced, then it may be time to seek professional help or as an alternative double up on our efforts to steer the loved one back to a positive outlook on life.