The Difference Between Being an Empath & a Codependent

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We live in the world with many people. Some are heartfelt and uplifting to be around. Others are more difficult. It’s important to find a comfortable way of relating to people so that you can develop a harmonious interdependence rather than being codependent.

When you’re interdependent you have a healthy reliance on others in your personal life, at work, and in the greater world. You depend on each other for support, respect, and to perform particular tasks such as collaborating on a project, raising children, participating in team sports, or hiking with a group. In contrast, codependency is an unhealthy form of dependency. This occurs when you are more focused on another person’s life and problems than your own. You are reluctant to assert your needs or set clear boundaries for fear of the consequences.

There’s a joke that when a codependent dies, it is your life that passes in front of their eyes. Codependents feel overly responsible for people and pick up the slack in relationships and work. If you’re a codependent, it can be hard to pull back and let others travel their own paths. You may want to over help or fix people, believing that if you don’t intervene something terrible will happen—a habit you might have learned from living with an alcoholic or anxious parent.

Empaths can have codependent tendencies but not all codependents are empaths. The difference is that empaths absorb the stress, emotions, and physical symptoms of others, something not all codependents do. As a highly empathic person, practice protection techniques such as shielding and meditation to deal with the energy absorption issue, which isn’t as relevant for a pure codependent. However, for both empaths and codependents, setting boundaries and seeing others as separate, not simply an extension of yourself, is also part of healing. You are still present, but you can be a great listener and a loyal friend without taking on someone’s problems.

Spend some time journaling about your relationships. Which are interdependent? Which are codependent? List a few constructive steps you can take to make codependent relationships more balanced. For example, checking up on someone less often, setting a clear boundary, or letting others make and learn from their own mistakes. Then, one by one, begin to reshape your codependent relationships and appreciate your interdependent ones.

Set your intention. I will thoughtfully examine and heal my codependency issues and seek a healthy interdependence in my relationships. I will stop obsessing about others and focus on my own selfcare. I can be a giving person while maintaining healthy boundaries.
 
(Excerpt from “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” by Judith Orloff, MD)
 

Judith Orloff, MD is the New York Times best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. Her latest book Thriving as an Empath offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people along with its companion The Empath’s Empowerment Journal. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA and has a TEDX talk. Her other books are Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive HealingExplore more information about her Empath Support Online course and speaking schedule on www.drjudithorloff.com.

Connect with Judith on  Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

11 thoughts on “The Difference Between Being an Empath & a Codependent

  1. Thank you for your perseverance and patience in sending me invitations to imbibe your teachings around being an”empath” and how to accept this personal sensitivity with dignity and grace, and to be able to serve others, while also caring for self.It
    I’m looking forward to taking the time now, to begin to read and learn on this Path.

  2. This is so timely. I joined Coda.org and attended 21 meetups in a month and i was somehow feeling a misfit. Many of the participants and sponsors are narcissist. Also, it becomes overwhelming to listen to so much pessimism. I do have many a patterns but I have deep rooted connection to my God. I see myself at step 8 – the only person I have harmed in this world is me. And now I’min love with myself. I really don’t see myself as a codependent. I felt gas lighted in the meetings. And I really don’t know that procrastination is a thing with INFJ or it is with codependency. But now I’m prioritizing my work and finishing everything on time 111%. There has to be a different approach to solving codependency for empaths and hsps. Like Coda and aa. Similarly this is niche.

    Thank you

  3. Dr. Orloff, this is the woman who just posted about being given the role of “rescuer” as a child, with an acoholic father (who also had a mental illness) and anxious mother. I forgot to ask you which book of yours would be the most helpful for someone like me and what I went through?

    1. Dr. Orloff suggested reading her book The Empath’s Survival Guide to learn about being an empath and also empathic relationships. She also suggested reading her book Emotional Freedom to help heal any issues that came up when you were a child.

  4. “….codependency is an unhealthy form of dependency. This occurs when you are more focused on another person’s life and problems than your own. You are reluctant to assert your needs or set clear boundaries for fear of the consequences.

    Codependents feel overly responsible for people and pick up the slack in relationships and work. If you’re a codependent, it can be hard to pull back and let others travel their own paths. You may want to over help or fix people, believing that if you don’t intervene something terrible will happen—a habit you might have learned from living with an alcoholic or anxious parent.”

    Wow! In just this snippet I learned WHY I’m Co-dependent – because I did grow up with an anxious mother and an alcoholic father, who was also very abusive. I was given the role of “rescuer” as I had to many times go for help to a neighbor when my father was beating my mother – I believed that if I didn’t intervene, something more terrible would have happened than what was already happening, if you get my drift.

    Thank you Dr. Orloff! I will keep reading at your website and likely take some courses of yours or order a book.

  5. Dr. Judith Orloff thank you so much for your very important articles. You have opened my eyes and I found out why I feel codependent one reason is anxious parent and notsetting the boundaries. I appreciate I like your blogs and your great expertise, knowledge sharing.

  6. I am an empath and used to struggle with all the messages I was getting. It was draining.

    But my angels showed me how to flip the switch off and on. This has served me well.

  7. I am happy for your help, I have been a Empathy for about four Years, and Thanks to you, I finding out that I have that ability because I have read your Book and seen the way thinks work for me. because of this Virus, I not us my Empathy ability very mush because I stay home a lot. I got your email and thank you for all you do in helping us newbie at being Empathy. Big Bill.

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