Codependency vs. Narcissism by Debra Sutton



I have read some blogs referring to codependency as narcissism. Referring to codependency as being on a spectrum with narcissism. The codependent is described as a flying monkey under the narcissist spell. Defending the narcissist bad behavior. This sounds to me like Stockholm syndrome. Many codependents form trauma bonds with their narcissistic abusers. Does this mean the codependent is a narcissist? I don’t believe it does. 

The narcissist has no empathy and will never be able to feel empathy. Codependents do have empathy and will sacrifice their own needs to the point of exhaustion. The only way in which they are similar is neither have self esteem. The codependent is able to self reflect. The narcissist does not self reflect, all he cares about is his own need. 

What is a codependent personality? 

It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.

Codependency is not included in the DSM-IV because it is not a mental illness. If anything it is a coping strategy. Codependency is dysfunctional, however the codependent can change. Those with NPD cannot change. And NPD is listed in the DSM as a personality disorder. While most all people have some narcissistic traits this does not mean all have NPD. 

Those with NPD are toxic and seem to derive pleasure from causing harm to others. A codependent does not want to hurt others. The person they harm is themselves by remaining in a toxic relationships. 

The narcissist and codependent are attracted to each other because they each fill a need. For the narcissist it’s a need to be admired and they feed off the codependent. For the codependent it’s fills the need to be needed, however the codependent suffers in the relationship, and is always hoping the narcissist will change. These codependent patterns are repeated for the codependent until they wake up to the truth of their own value. The narcissist has no respect for the boundaries of others which makes the codependent the perfect target as the codependent does not have healthy personal boundaries. When the codependent realizes their own self worth through self reflection they begin to form healthy personal boundaries for themselves they cease being a target for the disordered. 

There is a disorder called dependent personality disorder which is in the DSM. There are some similarities with codependency, but as I said codependency is not a disorder. These blogs I’ve read do not make the distinction they call the codependent an inverted narcissist. Those with Dependent  Personality Disorder are inverted narcissist. This should not be confused with codependency. 

My concern is some of the blogs I’ve read about Narcissism while they provide some good information are causing more distress to the codependent person who is just coming out of an abusive relations with a narcissist by calling codependency narcissism. Codependency is not on the same spectrum with narcissism. This is were confusion sets in. The codependent has already suffered in an abusive relationship and they are the target audience for blog sites on narcissism. They already question themselves in an attempt to make sense of what happened to them. They begin to wonder if they are in fact the narcissist. No you are not the narcissist. Please don’t let some of these blog sites confuse you. While these blog sites are technically well written quoting many facts and statistics the people writing them are not doctors. When something doesn’t sound right and it feels confusing trust your own instincts and do your own research. 

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6 thoughts on “Codependency vs. Narcissism by Debra Sutton

  1. Yes, Debra. It’s like saying you are wrong to be good, or ‘it’s your fault for being soft,’ or ‘you shouldn’t have let him do that,’ etc. It’s victim blaming and I really hate that.

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  2. Debra, which websites would you recommend to avoid where you’ve read that kind of wrong misinformation? One website says “XYZ” and another one says “1-2-3” and it’s hard to know which ones are better. Some websites even contradict themselves from one page to the next! I don’t think it’s deliberate but it’s not always obvious enough to separate opinions from facts.

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    1. Your so right Lotte. I can’t say which ones to avoid. I do try to look at the author. And some are written by doctors. I trust the sites who have a Psychiatrist as the writer because they have studied this. I share some articles from a site called Flying Monkeys Denied they don’t give the mane of the writer. I post them when they are true to my own experience. I write from my own experience, it may not be everyone’s experience. I am not a doctor. Just beware when reading online because everyone writes from their own perspective.

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