• Kelly Skovron, LCSW

Can Trauma Make Me Codependent?


What is codependency?

A person who might struggle with codependency might rely on other relationships to provide them a sense of self. They might only feel worthy about themselves when they measure what they can give to others. They may find themselves often in the role of the 'fixer.' This person may oftentimes put other people's needs ahead of their own and struggle with setting appropriate boundaries. A codependent person might struggle with being alone and find that they consistently need to fill their time to avoid anxiety. As writer Anaïs Nin said, "I was always ashamed to take. So I gave. It was not a virtue. It was a disguise.”


You may struggle with codependency if you:

  • Cannot set or follow through with boundaries

  • Have a desire to be viewed as the 'savior/helper/fixer'

  • Repeated attempts to gain approval from others

  • Feel a sense of responsibility for others actions

  • Feel uncomfortable expressing your own wants and needs

  • Are unanchored with time by yourself

  • Do things for others even when you don't want to

How is it tied to trauma?

Childhood trauma, especially, can lead to a lifetime of distorted thoughts and beliefs about yourself and the world. When a caregiver does not provide a child with the safety and security they need, this can lead to finding any way to get it. This is a survival skill. When that caregiver does not reciprocate the love due to neglect, abuse, or other ACEs, this is how childhood trauma survivor's reality becomes contorted. A survivor of childhood trauma may believe that they are 'not good enough,' that they are 'worthless,' or that they 'don't matter.'


The way a child survive's this trauma is by catering to their caregiver's needs to get any sort of love, affection, or care from them. Like a lot of the patterns that we develop if unhealed, we bring it into adulthood. In adult relationships, we may replay these patterns of codependency by the above points. This can be seen in romantic relationships, friendships, family relationships, work relationships, and more. There's a template created from childhood that all relationships in life require selflessness or compromising our own needs in order to be loved.



Are You Codependent?

If you feel like your entire identity is dependent on how others view you, then you may be codependent. Change is hard and it takes time to unravel the patterns that have been developing for years. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Set and maintain boundaries. Learning the skill of how to properly and healthily be assertive with your needs, and stick to them, is a lifelong important craft. Start with identifying ways you can be assertive in your life. Then think of ways you can express your wants or needs to others.

  • Acceptance. It might be uncomfortable if people express they are angry or disappointed in you. It might even be hard to tolerate others' emotions without jumping to fix them. Setting boundaries is hard and people may not always like that. You are not responsible for their feelings. This may be distressing, but you can learn to tolerate uncomfortable things.

  • Caring for yourself. Caring for yourself includes caring for the emotions that come up when you start this journey. It also includes numbness that may arise as those are feelings too. You've been consumed with caring for others and about others, it's time to care for your own needs.

  • Learn new ways to relate to yourself and others. It's okay if you're unsure how to have a relationship with others if you aren't jumping to their every need. It's time to learn how to have relationships with others that are mutually beneficial and where you can express your needs. Doing this with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist is key.

  • Start your self-love journey. Start being kind to yourself. Soothe your inner child by telling yourself the things that you've always deserved to hear. Recognize and start to try to replace your negative self-talk. Get to know yourself and spend time with yourself. Give yourself what you need.