Understanding Codependency: Signs, Symptoms, and Recovery

Understanding Codependency: Signs, Symptoms, and Recovery

Introduction to Codependency

Codependency is a complex psychological condition that affects an individuals’ ability to have healthy, mutually satisfying relationships. It often stems from dysfunctional family dynamics and can manifest in various ways. If left untreated, codependency can lead to mental, emotional and physical exhaustion, financial devastation, seething resentment and complete loss of independence. 

In this article, we will delve into the signs and symptoms of codependency, explore its root causes, and provide practical steps for breaking free from codependent relationship patterns. If you would like to know if you have codependency, take the Friel Codependency Quiz here.

Signs and Symptoms of Codependency

Let’s briefly discuss the most common signs and symptoms of codependency, so as to help you better understand codependency patterns.

  • Low self-esteem and excessive need for validation: Codependent individuals often have a poor sense of self-worth and seek external validation to feel worthy.
  • People-pleasing behavior: They have a strong desire to please others at the expense of their own needs and boundaries.
  • Difficulty setting boundaries: Codependent individuals struggle to establish and enforce healthy boundaries in their relationships.
  • Enabling behavior: They may enable others’ unhealthy behaviors, often out of a fear of rejection or abandonment.
  • Neglecting personal needs: Codependent individuals tend to prioritise others’ needs over their own, often neglecting self-care.
  • Intense fear of abandonment: They may experience an overwhelming fear of being left alone or rejected by their loved ones.

Understanding the Root Causes of Codependency

It’s important to understand where patterns of codependency originate from. Here are some common causes:

  1. Childhood experiences: Codependency can be rooted in childhood experiences, such as growing up in dysfunctional families or witnessing unhealthy relationship dynamics.
  2. Lack of emotional support: Individuals who did not receive adequate emotional support in their formative years may develop codependent tendencies as they seek validation and connection from others.
  3. Trauma and neglect: Traumatic experiences, including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, can contribute to the development of codependent patterns.
  4. Learned behavior: Codependency can be learned from role models or caregivers who displayed codependent tendencies, leading individuals to replicate those behaviors in their own relationships.

Breaking Free from Codependency: Steps to Recovery

  1. Self-awareness: Recognise and acknowledge codependent patterns in your behaviour and relationships. Take the Codependency Quiz!
  2. Education and self-reflection: Learn about codependency, its effects, and how it may be impacting your life. Engage in self-reflection to understand underlying emotions and needs.
  3. Establish healthy boundaries: Identify and communicate your needs, wants, and limits in relationships. Practice saying “no” when necessary.
  4. Develop self-care practices: Prioritise self-care activities that nurture your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
  5. Seek support: Consider joining a codependency support group or seeking therapy to gain guidance and support from professionals and others on a similar journey.
  6. Explore healthy relationships: Surround yourself with individuals who support your well-being and encourage personal growth.
  7. Celebrate progress: Acknowledge and celebrate your milestones and progress as you navigate your journey towards recovery.

Establishing Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

  • Identify your values and needs: Understand what is important to you and the boundaries you need to maintain your well-being.
  • Communicate assertively: Clearly express your boundaries to others in a respectful and assertive manner.
  • Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and recognise that setting boundaries is a healthy and necessary part of maintaining healthy relationships.
  • Stay consistent: Enforce your boundaries consistently and avoid making exceptions that may undermine their effectiveness.
  • Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family, or professionals for guidance and encouragement as you establish and maintain healthy boundaries.

Seeking Professional Help for Codependency

When you understand codependency you realise that you might need professional support to help identify, challenge and change the unhelpful thoughts, feelings and behaviours associated with codependent patterns.

  • Therapy: Consider individual therapy or counseling with a mental health professional who understands codependency.
  • Support groups: Join codependency support groups, such as Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), to connect with others who understand your experiences.
  • Workshops and seminars: Attend workshops or seminars that focus on codependency and provide tools for recovery and personal growth.
  • Online resources: Utilise online resources, such as articles, books, and podcasts, that offer guidance and insights into codependency recovery (A great read on the topic is Codependent No More by Melody Beattie).


Codependency can hinder personal growth and fulfillment, but with self-awareness, education, and support, it is possible to break free from its grip. By establishing healthy boundaries, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help, individuals can embark on a transformative journey towards healthier, more fulfilling relationships. Remember, prioritising your well-being is essential for breaking the cycle of codependency and embracing a life of self-love and authenticity.

If you have completed the Codependency Quiz and you would like to make an appointment to discuss your results, please reach out via the contact page on this website. 

Michelle xx


Image source: Pixabay @ Image by engin_akyurt

Perfectionism Exposed

Perfectionism Exposed

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a personality trait characterised by an unrelenting pursuit of perfection. Perfectionists feel an overwhelming internal pressure to set and meet unrealistically high standards. People with perfectionistic tendencies tend to be very self-critical. They are constantly striving for perfection in various aspects of their lives, including work, relationships, and personal achievements. They often have a deep fear of failure, which fuels their drive to succeed. In this article, we will explore what perfectionism entails and its main impacts. We’ll also look at why seeking support from an experienced psychologist is crucial for learning to manage perfectionism.

What Causes Perfectionism?

The perfectionist mindset is a fascinating yet complex trait that many individuals develop in childhood. Perfectionist thinking can stem from various causes, including family or societal pressures to meet unrealistic standards, unrelenting criticism from caregivers, and the fear of judgment and rejection. Additionally, personal traits such as high conscientiousness and a desire for control can contribute to the development of perfectionistic tendencies.



Perfectionism is a survival strategy developed in childhood to cope with challenges faced in your upbringing. Challenges such as overly critical or abusive environments, personal trauma including abandonment, and family conflict or breakdown. The focus on perfection gives the child something to strive for; a way to prove their worth and value through setting exceptionally high standards and expecting flawless outcomes; a way to feel in control of the uncertainty that surrounds them; or a method to gain approval and love or avoid judgment and criticism.

Like all our childhood survival strategies, they make perfect sense in the context in which you developed them. But as a mature adult you start to experience the limitations and toxic nature of your adaptive survival mechanisms. Perfectionism is problematic because, of course, perfection cannot be realised, no-one and nothing is perfect. And because perfectionists link their self-worth to the attainment of perfection, they never feel worthy and constantly struggle with feelings that they are not good enough.


Contradictory Nature of Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a contradiction. Striving for perfection can be both motivating and debilitating; the fear of failure can lead some to give up before they have even started, or to obsess so much with the details that they never get off first-base. At other times, the drive for perfection can motivate and energise you to do better, achieving incredible results. Although this pressure to perform can have a profoundly negative impact on our mental well-being and overall quality of life and stop perfectionists from celebrating their successes.

From the outside, perfectionists often appear to have it all together, to be in control, managing it all, doing very well. But this is nothing more than a well-crafted mask. Internally, there is usually massive self-doubt, constant self-criticism, and perpetual fear of not being good enough. Perfectionists often feel like imposters or frauds and struggle with self-doubt. Additionally, focusing on mistakes and not successes can increase stress, cause excessive rumination, lack of self-worth and even suicidal thoughts.


Characteristics of the Perfectionist Mindset

All-or-Nothing Thinking:

Perfectionists often engage in black-and-white thinking. This is where they believe they are either perfect or a complete failure, with no middle-ground. This of course is damaging to self-esteem, to relationships, to career and study and to almost all areas of life.

Fear of Failure:

Perfectionists have an intense fear of making mistakes or falling short of their own unrealistic expectations. This fear can be debilitating, causing the person to freeze and lose motivation. Alternatively, it can lead to so much stress and anxiety, that mistakes are more likely to happen, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Harsh Self-Criticism:

Perfectionists tend to be overly self-critical, judging themselves harshly for perceived imperfections or mistakes. This often means that wins and successes are overlooked, and mistakes are highlighted. This is the person who gets 99% on their exam, focuses on the 1%, and feels a complete failure.

Approval Seeking:

Perfectionists seek validation and approval from others, basing their self-worth on external feedback. This can lead to people-pleasing behaviours and losing your sense of self.


Due to the fear of not meeting their own high standards, perfectionists may procrastinate or avoid tasks altogether, leading to more feelings of failure and damaging their self-esteem further.


The Impacts of Perfectionism

Psychological Distress:

Perfectionism can lead to significant psychological distress. The relentless pressure to achieve perfection can contribute to anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. And this constant fear of making mistakes or falling short of impossibly high standards can create a perpetual state of dissatisfaction and self-criticism.

Procrastination and Paralysis:

Paradoxically, perfectionism can also lead to procrastination and paralysis. The fear of not being able to meet one’s own unrealistic expectations can be so overwhelming that individuals may find themselves avoiding tasks or projects altogether. And this can hinder personal and professional growth and prevent individuals from reaching their full potential.

Interpersonal Challenges:

Perfectionism can strain relationships. The intense focus on flawless performance and the need for external validation can create distance between perfectionists and their loved ones. Their excessive self-criticism may lead to feelings of inadequacy and an inability to accept praise or constructive feedback.


Overcoming Perfectionism


Recognising the detrimental effects of perfectionism and seeking support from a registered psychologist can be transformative. Psychologists are trained professionals who specialise in understanding human behaviour and can provide valuable guidance to individuals struggling with perfectionistic tendencies. Here’s how a psychologist can help:

  • Developing Healthy Coping Strategies: Psychologists can assist in developing healthy coping strategies to manage perfectionistic tendencies. They can help individuals challenge their unrealistic expectations, cultivate self-compassion, and adopt a more balanced and realistic approach to achievement.
  • Addressing Underlying Issues: Perfectionism often stems from deep-rooted emotional or psychological factors. Psychologists can help uncover and address these underlying issues, such as low self-esteem, fear of failure, or the need for external validation. By working through these concerns, individuals can find healthier ways to pursue their goals.
  • Building Resilience and Self-Acceptance: Psychologists can guide individuals towards building resilience and self-acceptance. They can help individuals recognise their inherent worth beyond their achievements and assist in cultivating a positive and nurturing mindset. This shift in perspective can reduce the impact of perfectionism on mental well-being and enhance overall life satisfaction.


In conclusion, while striving for excellence is admirable, the pursuit of perfection can be a double-edged sword. The impacts of perfectionism on mental health and personal fulfillment are significant. Whilst many perfectionists will claim that the trait “makes them a better person” there is often a dark truth that they have not fully faced. Speaking personally, I am a recovering perfectionist and I understand what it is like to live with constant self-criticism, unrealistically high expectations, fear of failure and depression.

Seeking help from a registered psychologist with experience treating perfectionism can provide the necessary tools and support to navigate the challenges associated with perfectionism. By embracing a more balanced and compassionate approach, individuals can find joy in their achievements and foster healthier relationships with themselves and others. Remember, perfection is an illusion, but personal growth and self-acceptance are lifelong journeys worth pursuing.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or arrange an appointment.

Michelle xx


Image source: Pixabay @ Alexas_Fotos

OCD: the invisible burden

OCD: the invisible burden


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD for short, is a mental health condition that can have a profound impact on an individual’s life. This disorder is characterised by unwanted, intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors that individuals feel compelled to perform in order to alleviate their anxiety. Whilst the individual feels temporary relief from performing the compulsive behaviour, it is usually short-lived and in fact only serves to reinforce and exacerbate the entire anxious-obsessive-compulsive cycle. 

While the exact cause of OCD is still unknown, research has suggested that a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors contribute to its development.


Symptoms of OCD can vary widely from person to person, but typically fall into two categories: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are persistent and intrusive thoughts, urges, or images that cause significant anxiety or distress. Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that individuals feel compelled to perform in response to their obsessions.

Some common obsessions associated with OCD include a fear of contamination or germs, unwanted, taboo, aggressive or violent thoughts, the need for symmetry or exactness, and intrusive sexual thoughts. Common compulsions may include excessive cleaning or hand-washing, repeatedly checking things like door and window locks or appliances, counting or repeating words or phrases, and avoiding situations that trigger obsessions.


While there is no known cure for OCD, several effective treatment approaches exist which can help manage and significantly reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with their OCD.
  • Exposure and response prevention (ERP), a type of CBT, involves gradually exposing individuals to their obsessions while preventing them from performing their compulsions.
  • Medications such as antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are also often prescribed to treat OCD.
  • ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) is an approach based in CBT and Mindfulness, which helps a person connect to their values, unhook from unhelpful thoughts and focus on appropriate action-taking.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques, can help reduce anxiety and promote feelings of calmness and well-being.
  • Additionally, joining a support group for individuals with OCD can provide a sense of community and understanding, as well as access to valuable resources and coping strategies.


In conclusion, living with OCD is an invisible burden, something that you have likely kept a secret and tried to hide from those around you. OCD can certainly be challenging, distressing and embarrassing. And without treatment it can gradually get worse and worse, impacting more and more areas of your thoughts and behaviours. In essence, it’s a complex anxiety disorder that can significantly impact your quality of life. While the causes of OCD are not yet fully understood, effective treatment is available to help you manage symptoms and improve your overall well-being, but you will need the support and guidance of a registered mental health professional.

If you’d like to learn more about OCD and how to manage it, then get in touch and schedule an appointment or you may like to check out my Tame Your OCD Workbook – 30+ pages

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or arrange an appointment.

Michelle xx

Stop Self-Criticism

Stop Self-Criticism

Tips for Overcoming Negative Self-Talk

Self-criticism is an internal dialogue that can be harsh, self-destructive, and often irrational. Negative self-talk can lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and a host of other mental health issues. While it is natural to have some negative thoughts about oneself, constantly dwelling on these thoughts can be harmful to one’s well-being. In this article, we will explore ways to overcome negative self-talk and reduce self-criticism.

What is self-criticism?

Self-criticism is a common behavior in which an individual judges oneself harshly, often focusing on perceived weaknesses or shortcomings. This type of internal dialogue can be destructive, leading to feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. Self-criticism can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as personal failure, social comparison, and trauma.

Understanding the effects of self-criticism

Self-criticism can have a profound impact on an individual’s mental health and well-being. Negative self-talk can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Self-criticism can also lead to behaviors such as perfectionism, avoidance, and social withdrawal.

Challenging negative self-talk

Challenging negative self-talk is a critical step in overcoming self-criticism. This involves identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive and realistic self-talk. One effective way to challenge negative self-talk is to ask oneself questions such as, “What evidence do I have that this thought is true?” “Even if it seems true, is it helpful?” and “Would I speak like this to a friend?”

Practicing self-compassion

Self-compassion is an essential tool for reducing self-criticism. This involves treating oneself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. It’s recognising that you are a human being and all human beings are flawed and imperfect. It’s important to remember that we all makes mistakes, and that it’s okay to be imperfect. Everyone is deserving of compassion, love and belonging…including you! Practicing self-compassion can help reduce negative self-talk and promote feelings of self-worth.

Cultivating self-awareness

Cultivating self-awareness is another critical step in overcoming self-criticism. This involves becoming more mindful of one’s thoughts and emotions, and developing an understanding of the underlying causes of negative self-talk. Developing self-awareness can help individuals identify triggers for negative self-talk, and develop strategies to manage these triggers. If you would like to learn more about Mindfulness, you can download my Mindful Meditation For Beginners Workbook here.

Building self-esteem

Building self-esteem is another important tool for reducing self-criticism. This involves identifying one’s strengths and accomplishments, and celebrating these successes. It is also important to set realistic goals and acknowledge progress towards these goals. Building self-esteem can help individuals feel more confident and capable, reducing negative self-talk.

Seeking support

Finally, seeking support is essential for reducing chronic self-criticism. This can involve talking to a trusted friend, family member, or a mental health professional if your inner critic is especially harsh. Professional support can help individuals gain perspective, identify triggers for negative self-talk, and develop strategies to manage these triggers.

In conclusion, self-criticism is a common behavior that can have a profound impact on an individual’s mental health and well-being. Challenging negative self-talk, practicing self-compassion, cultivating self-awareness, building self-esteem, and seeking support are all effective strategies for reducing self-criticism. By incorporating these tools into one’s daily routine, it is possible to overcome negative self-talk and promote feelings of self-worth.

Michelle xx

Understanding Depression: Symptoms and Seeking Help

Understanding Depression: Symptoms and Seeking Help

Depression is a widespread mental health disorder that affects millions of people globally. It can make everyday activities feel challenging and drain one’s energy, making it challenging to carry out daily tasks and engage in meaningful activities. Recognising the symptoms of depression is the first step towards seeking help and getting the necessary treatment. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common symptoms of depression and why it’s essential to seek professional help.


Persistent Feelings of Sadness or Emptiness

One of the most common symptoms of depression is persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness. This feeling can make individuals feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless, making it difficult to find joy in activities they once enjoyed. It can also cause them to withdraw from social activities and loved ones, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.


Changes in Appetite or Weight

Depression can cause changes in appetite, resulting in either weight gain or weight loss. Some people may lose interest in food and experience a decrease in appetite, while others may turn to food for comfort and experience an increase in appetite. Changes in eating habits can also impact one’s overall health and well-being.


Sleep Disturbances

Depression can cause sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or oversleeping. Insomnia can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, while oversleeping can lead to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. Sleep is essential for both physical and mental health, and a lack of it can worsen the symptoms of depression.


Loss of Interest in Activities

People with depression may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, such as hobbies or spending time with loved ones. They may also feel a lack of motivation or energy to carry out day-to-day tasks. Losing interest in activities can make depression worse and lead to feelings of boredom and isolation.


Physical Symptoms

Depression can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, and muscle aches. These physical symptoms may be a result of the body’s response to stress and anxiety. Physical symptoms can make it difficult to manage day-to-day activities, making depression more challenging to cope with.


Thoughts of Self-harm or Suicide

In some cases, depression can lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide. It’s essential to seek help immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide. There are resources available to help those experiencing these feelings, and seeking professional help can be life-saving.


Seeking Help for Depression

It’s essential to remember that everyone experiences depression differently, and not all symptoms may be present in every case. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing several of these symptoms for an extended period, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. Depression is treatable, and with the right support, people can lead fulfilling lives. Mental health professionals can offer various treatment options, including therapy and medication, to help manage and overcome depression.

In conclusion, depression is a common mental health disorder that can significantly impact one’s quality of life. Recognising the symptoms of depression is crucial for seeking help and getting the necessary treatment. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, seek help from a mental health professional. Remember, depression is treatable, and with the right support, people can lead rich, full and meaningful lives.

If you need support for any of the above symptoms or if you have been diagnosed with depression and would like support, please connect with me to arrange an appointment.

Warmest wishes,