Are you aware that in addition to sex, narcotics, gambling, gaming, and shopping, you can also be addicted to toxic relationships?


Yes, being addicted to a person is officially a THING: it’s called codependency.

Interestingly, there are many commonalities between codependency and being a Highly Sensitive Person (or HSP), specifically in the areas of emotional reactivity and empathy.

In simple terms, this means that an HSP is a sucker for fixing someone’s suffering (even if that someone is HIGHLY unsuitable for them) because their heart quite literally goes out to a person in need, and their knee jerk reaction is to want to jump in and RESCUE them.

This is the very same hook that reels in a codependent person.

As an HSP, you will have become accustomed to being labeled ‘too sensitive’ or ‘dramatic’, and being made to feel like an oddity or inconvenience; in which case, your self-worth will be low, which means you will feel undeserving of love. As a result, despite often knowing better, you will cling to the loved ones you have, whether they are toxic or not.

Similarly, codependency goes hand in hand with low self-esteem or low self-worth, meaning we seek out and accept love in whatever form it is offered, with little or no healthy boundaries in place, as our need for validation is greater than our need for emotional protection.

This dysfunctional behavior more often than not begins in childhood, where we learnt it was our job to make everything ok in the family; unwittingly, we then carry this burden of responsibility into adult life.

The good news is that, as adults, we DO have a choice: we DON’T have to unconsciously repeat dysfunctional familial patterns with our romantic partners and friends

Evidently, a strong awareness of self worth and the health of our boundaries will determine where we sit on a scale of codependency, and, like all addiction, that scale ranges from mild to severe.

So, on the sliding scale of codependency, you will find some people are natural care givers: well meaning but mis-led, they dive right in and try to help people, often without being asked; some are people pleasers, often sacrificing their own integrity to ingratiate themselves with others in order to be liked or loved; and some are controlling, manipulative, game players, operating from a fearful place of dark desperation in order to ‘keep’ a person they feel in danger of ‘losing’ (often an addict).


If you feel it is your God-given empathic duty as an HSP to intercept and anticipate people’s needs, wants, desires, and process their problems and complex emotions for them, there is a high chance you are also codependent.

Do you feel outrageously guilty if you fail or, heaven fobid, refuse to meet someone’s needs? Conversely, do you experience feelings of deep resentment when you do everything for another person, but receive little or nothing in return?

Ok, these are all big red codependent flags.

There is a common misconception that HSPs and codependents are weak ‘yes’ men or women. This is not strictly true; both HSP’s and codependents can be strong, feisty, determined, resilient types, often to the point of being stubborn. These character traits are developed as a natural response to having to put up with the inordinate amount of shit that is thrown at them on a daily basis!

If you are an HSP/ and or codependent woman, one of the most common and challenging patterns you can experience is a strong attraction towards emotionally unavailable men (often addicts) who, despite all the red flags, you find simply irresistible.

But, WHY?

You’d think you’d run a mile from emotionally complex men who treat you terribly and make you feel worse about yourself, wouldn’t you? But, no, paradoxically, you are magnetically drawn to them; their bad behaviour just makes you need and want them more. WHY? Because you are desperately seeking their love and approval, that’s why. Classic case of codependency.

In order to change this kind of behavioral pattern, one has to re-learn the basics from the ground up: self-worth, healthy boundaries, clear communication, self-acceptance, self-love, and all.

Knowledge is power, so below are some key codependency characteristics to watch out for if you are an HSP, followed by some HSP dating tips:

15 codependency character traits:

Codependents are kind, big hearted, loving, giving, caring people, but underlying this is shame and worthlessness
Codependents confuse love with need and care taking. They are devoted to their partner’s needs (and prioritize them above their own); they feel compelled to fix, save or rescue their partner
Codependents confuse intensity with intimacy, which means a whole lot of drama and game playing in relationships
Codependents experience craving and addictive feelings for the relationship and are fixated on their quest to find unconditional love, which for them is the illusive Holy Grail of relationship highs
Codependents can become obsessive, have unrealistic expectations, and often project relationship fantasies onto their partner
Codependents tend to attract narcissists, addicts or people with complex emotional issues that they can take care of
Codependents use relationships to fill an inner void in an attempt to try and make themselves feel whole
Codependents have an inability to love themselves and therefore attract one-sided relationships with those who are manipulative, abandoning, controlling, self-centered and inconsiderate
Codependents prefer giving to receiving, but are often left wondering why no one else gives as much as they do
Codependents are adept at repressing their feelings and pretending they’re ok when they’re not
Codependents live in a constant state of fear, worrying their partners will leave them if they risk expressing their true opinions or standing up for themselves; this gives their partner all the power, and license to treat them badly

Codependents feel super responsible for other people’s thoughts, feelings, and lack of well-being. They experience anxiety and guilt when someone else has a problem, and become offended when the advice they give is not taken
Codependents neglect their own needs and always prioritize others; they work harder on their partners’ issue than their partner does
Codependents enable their partner’s dysfunctional behavior by creating toxic dependency and denying reality so their fantasy can continue
Codependents pride themselves on being loyal and devotional, anticipating and taking care of everyone else’s needs (often at the expense of their own), but secretly they foster feelings of bitterness and resentment, feeling appreciated or USED. As a consequence of giving out too much and receiving far too little in return, they will often cut people off and hermit themselves away.


5 ways out of codependency:

Educate yourself: read around the subject from both an HSP and codependent perspective. Forewarned is forearmed.
Learn to communicate better and to prioritize your own needs, to love and put yourself first; you’ll find other people will follow suit and treat you accordingly

By all means help others, but only by helping them to help THEMSELVES, and not by being the rescuer.
Write a blog, share your stories, join a forum, and exchange ideas
Instead of draining your friends and family with unhealed codependency issues, join a local support group (see below) where you can engage with like-minded people; or address your issues on a one to one with a therapist.

12 Step Programmes Associated with Relationship and Addiction Issues:

SLAA: a programme of recovery for sex and love addicts

CODA: a programme of recovery from codependence

AL ANON: A support group for those whose lives have been effected by someone else’s drinking.


3 signs a potential partner is toxic for you as an HSP:

If someone shames you for your sensitivity or minimizes your feelings, labeling you too sensitive, dramatic, or weak, then take a step back. It’s a red flag. A good partner doesn’t necessarily have to understand your sensitivity straight away, but they should at least be OPEN to understanding it, and when you react strongly, they should respect that.
If a person is a taker — i.e. they take, and take, and take without giving much (or anything) in return, then they’re not healthy to be around. The same is true of a person who acts inappropriately or offensively and then expects YOU to soothe their emotional wounds for them afterwards.

If a person dismisses you or MOCKS your personal boundaries, this shows that they fundamentally don’t understand (or respect) how you OR your high sensitivity works, or, worse, that your needs just aren’t that important to them. True, your needs may seem a little different to theirs, or even extreme, but this does NOT mean they aren’t valid or don’t deserve to be taken seriously. Actually, the benefits of dating an HSP are enormous, as they are: empathic, caring, sensual, compassionate, loving, giving, thoughtful, and intensely passionate, so surely your partner should be treating you with extra care, not disdain?

and finally, don’t f**k the messenger!

If you find yourself on an ‘unsuitable’ date, trust your instincts and don’t confuse that familiar fizz of fear with butterflies: see this person as simply a messenger, urging you to PAY ATTENTION TO THE RED FLAGS and thereby offering you the opportunity to nip this pattern of yours directly in the bud.

Instead of dating the ‘bad man’ (the knock on effect of which will be HUGE) just write him off as a ‘bad date’ and move on. Immediately.

This post was previously published on


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