Separation Anxiety and Codependency

Back to Blog   Posted:   October 19, 2020 by

Do you find it difficult to be alone for even a short period of time? Does even the thought of being alone cause your palms to get sweaty and your knees to get weak? Separation anxiety and codependency can impact a person's day-to-day life dramatically. What are the causes of these problems and are there any cures?

First, let's make the distinction between separation anxiety and codependency because they are not synonymous. Separation anxiety is the general fear of abandonment from another person, place, thing, or even an idea/concept. This fundamentally differs from codependency in one particular nuance; codependency focuses on the relational dynamic rather than its underlying symptom.

For example, we might say that a person is afraid to leave their boyfriend/girlfriend if their work requires them to travel out of state for a brief conference. This would be the symptomatic problem of separation anxiety. Instead, if we said that a person is vicariously living through their significant other and therefore is feeling compelled to change the other person we would be talking about a codependent relational dynamic.

Hopefully, the distinction is now clearer- separation anxiety emphasizes a symptom, and codependency highlights a relational dynamic. It may go without saying, however, that separation anxiety and codependency can easily be seen interacting with each other in many unhealthy relationships.

One can easily picture a child who is afraid to be left alone and deeply feels their parents' emotions. There are biological reasons for this, as the child is overwhelmingly dependent on their parents for basic survival. Unfortunately, if this child-like mentality continues into adulthood, a pathology has developed somewhere along the way.

What causes separation anxiety and codependency to continue into adulthood you may wonder? The likely causes almost certainly began in childhood. If a child has an abusive (verbally or physically) parent and/or a parent who models unhealthy behavior, the child is much more likely to develop a fearful disposition towards the world around them and people in general. On the contrary if a child grows up in a healthy environment, it will be much less likely for the child to develop these unhealthy thought patterns later in life.

If you were traumatized as a child, there is no reason to believe that you cannot rewire your hardwiring and prosper later in life. You may have been knocked down, but it is imperative to get back up, wipe the dust off, and continue to live your own life how you desire it to be. It should be noted that this journey will require external support and internal fortitude. Therapy can greatly assist one's journey to freeing oneself from the shackles that are currently in place. Therapy can be supplemented with spirituality and other modalities of self improvement. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and please reach out if you or someone you know would be benefitted from scheduling a therapy session. My door is open, along with my eyes and ears. Remember, it is better to move forward because if you are not moving forward then you are only regressing.

Nancy Bortz


Addiction, Anxiety, Codependency, Personal Growth, Stress


Park Hill