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Am I Codependent? The Plain & Simple Truth

Have you been told you're codependent? Learn the plain and simple truth in this informational article about betrayal trauma & codependence.

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In the midst of emotional abuse and betrayal trauma, victims often find themselves grappling with the label of “codependency.” Therapists, 12-step sponsors, and clergy may have used this term, and in the rush to seek safety, victims sometimes embrace it.

Safety-Seeking Responses to Trauma

It’s crucial to recognize that the behaviors often mistaken for codependency may, in fact, be safety-seeking responses to trauma. Women experiencing betrayal trauma may exhibit hypervigilance, directing their focus and resources towards the source of the crisis. While these actions may resemble codependence, they are survival strategies in a situation that demands immediate safety.

At BTR.ORG, we distinguish between “safety-seeking” behaviors and codependence, emphasizing that the former is a natural response to traumatic circumstances. The concept of codependence, when imposed on victims, can hinder their quest for safety and support.

Focus on Safety – Not Self-Blame or Moral Assessments 

In moments of intense trauma, the priority is not to delve into potential personal shortcomings labeled as codependency but rather to prioritize safety. The focus should be on creating a secure environment for healing, not on self-blame or moral assessments.

“How Can I Stop These ‘Safety-Seeking’ Behaviors?” 

Setting and maintaining effective boundaries emerge as a powerful tool in reducing trauma and curbing safety-seeking behaviors. Boundaries, viewed as courageous actions, separate individuals from abuse, providing a foundation for healing.

For those struggling with obsessive thoughts and habits, women in our community have found the following to be helpful as they work toward safety from emotional abuse: 

Remember – Our Primary Goal is Your Emotional Safety

The narrative of codependency can divert attention from the primary goal of safety and healing. Instead of fixating on the label, victims are encouraged to ask new questions, find fresh perspectives, and prioritize their own well-being.

If you find yourself entangled in questions about codependency, remember that you are in trauma, and your priority is to seek emotional safety.

We are here to support you. 



  1. Jan Magray

    Interesting discussion – I was labeled "codependent’ when I sought guidance – not one, but two psychiatrists and one MSW used the term (or one that means the same thing) and it took me about ten minutes to argue back that because I cared for, cooked meals for, did laundry for my husband – who had carried on a secret life of deviant sexual behavior for 40 years I was co-dependent??? Of course – we are all co-dependent if we are in relationships. There is a dirty connotation that accompanies co-dependent that infers that the deviant acts of the husband are somehow caused, aided and abetted, and or allowed by the wife. I can tell you that although I should have been suspicious due to his negative behavior, there is no evidence that I made a contribution to his illness. And, this behavior is an illness. It is deep seated confusion about sexual identity and the behavior is acted out in absolute secrecy – until they get caught – and then the "gas lighting" begins. these individuals – sex addicts – are seasoned professionals at playing roles as successful businessmen, adoring husbands, and even devoted friends. The sicker they are the better actor they become! The real question is why this has not been dealt with in a more professional manner by trained mental health professionals and why there is so much quandary about how to classify this illness for insurance support. This is possibly the most destructive and deviant disorder that runs rampant in our society and there needs to be relevant professional response to it rather than a convenient labeling of innocent victims. Jan

    • Anne

      Jan, I couldn’t agree with you more! Professionals need to understand that victims are just that, innocent victims.


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