Healing from Codependency After Physical and Emotional Abuse

So far, in this series, we have discussed narcissistic and childhood abuse and how codependency can become a problem for survivors. However, physical and emotional abuse is also rampant in our society and tearing the future lives of our children apart.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emotional abuse is experienced by 11 percent of children and 50 percent of adults, although the exact figures are hard to measure.


This article will focus on emotional and physical abuse and how they cause millions to be caught up in the circus called codependency.


Physical Abuse




Physical abuse is the physical injury of a child on purpose. Legally, physical injury is anything from severe and frequent bruising of a child to more serious injuries. Physical abuse is not confined to injury caused by a parent or caregiver, as it can be committed by any person.


It is vital to understand that physical abuse only includes non-accidental harm. Non-accidental injuries include:


  • The abuser intended to cause harm
  • The abuser, knowingly, carelessly, or recklessly, involves a child in behavior that is dangerous


There are situations that are not considered physical abuse, such as corporal punishment with no injuries and slapping a child in anger with no injuries. Although these two situations are not considered physical child abuse, they certainly are not smiled upon or recommended.


Emotional Abuse



Emotional abuse is also known as silent abuse, as it can occur, and no one outside the family unit knows about it. This type of abuse is a pattern of behavior where the perpetrator humiliates, insults, or instills fear in a victim to control them. Emotional abuse can occur in a mixed range of interpersonal situations, including a parental, romantic, or professional relationship.


People who are victims of emotional abuse experience short-term problems such as fear, confusion, low confidence, and difficulty concentrating. Long-term effects include anxiety, insomnia, and withdrawal.


There are many warning signs surrounding emotional abuse, including:


  • Threatening a person’s safety, their loved ones, or property
  • Jealousy, accusations, and paranoia
  • Isolating the victim from family, acquaintances, and friends
  • Demeaning, shaming, or humiliating the victim
  • Delivering constant criticism
  • Gaslighting, which is making a person question their reality and experiences
  • Making acceptance of the other person contingent on the victim’s choices


Perpetrators of emotional abuse cause great harm to their victims and hold the other person hostage with their words and actions. They may yell at and wield baseless accusations, call the other person names, and act possessive and jealous.


Physical Plus Emotional Abuse and Codependency



I think it is easy to see how both physical and emotional abuse can lead to codependency. It is critical to remember that these two types of abuse can occur against anyone of any age.


Emotional and physical abuse often happen together, but not always. Emotional abuse does, however, often precede physical violence. Codependent relationships are perfect breeding grounds for the emergence of these two types of abuse and vice versa.


Psychological abuse is often just as if not more damaging than physical violence as it is a constant force against a person where physical violence is occasional and cyclical.


How is emotional and physical abuse in childhood related to codependency?


Codependency forms when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship where one person enables their partner’s self-destructive tendencies or undermines their child’s relationships with others.


Living in an abusive home, many children feel unwanted and unneeded. When these kids grow up, they desire to be needed and will do anything to keep a relationship. They choose people who will use them as a doormat. Both people in a codependent relationship are similarly linked. The survivor of childhood abuse clings to the other person because they feel needed and wanted.


Who are the Victims of Codependent Interpersonal Violence and Psychological Abuse?



Children often are invisible victims of domestic violence and abuse, with research estimating between 3.3 and 10 million children and young people. Adolescents from all types of families are victims, including rich and poor households.


Kids who grow up in homes where they observe domestic and emotional violence are also affected and can become entangled in a codependent relationship. These children, now adults, desperately need a place where they feel they belong and will settle for any relationship that reminds them of the one they knew as a child.


As grown-ups, children from abusive homes search for people who will fulfill the role of the abuser or who are needy so that they can establish a feeling of safety and belonging by attempting to rescue and control their partner.


The victims of codependency caused by interpersonal violence and psychological abuse live in misery but cannot break free from the trap that was set for them.


Seeking Help



Codependency is not curable because it is not a disease, a disorder, or a syndrome. Codependency is a relationship dynamic where there is often abuse. The people involved in a codependent relationship are both abuser and victim and lose themselves in the subtleties of the relationship.


To end codependency, first one must admit there is a problem and the connection it has to the past. Knowing and understanding that codependency was caused by being the victim or observer of relational violence in the childhood home makes all the difference in the world. One cannot fight what cannot be seen.


There are five more steps to healing from emotional and physical abuse.


  1. People who are victims of abuse and find themselves in a codependent relationship often feel helpless and become a perpetual victim. When this is the case, life is controlling you instead of you controlling your life. It is time to reclaim control over your life by first setting firm boundaries and leaving the relationship.


  1. Do not isolate yourself or allow another to isolate you. It is an instinct for many trauma survivors to hide from others, but this makes things worse. Seek support and connect with other people.


  1. Learn how to accept and let go. Accepting what happened to you and the years lost to codependency differs from saying the abuse was okay. Acceptance means you decide what you are going to do with the memories of what happened both in childhood and since being an adult in a codependent relationship. Instead, let go of the pain and sorrow so you can move on with your new life. No, letting go does not happen overnight but is instead a long process.


  1. Replace negativity with positive affirmations. Negativity has caught you in the net of codependency and possibly has turned you toward alcohol or drugs to cope. While bad habits are hard to break, letting go of negativity in your life and filling the hole with positive thoughts and affirmations can help you break free.


  1. Be patient with yourself. You didn’t gain codependent tendencies overnight and they will not change overnight. As a child, you were seriously wounded and because of this developed defense mechanisms and warped perceptions that are hard to escape. Be patient with yourself and always honor how far you have come, no matter how small or big. Remember, it is the minor victories that help you win the ultimate battle over codependency.


Ending Our Time Together


The purpose of this piece has been to help those who were victims of childhood emotional and physical abuse recognize their codependent relationships. The goal was to point out how abuse in the past has affected the formation of dysfunctional relationships today.


If you recognize yourself in this article, please seek help from a trusted advisor. The advisor can be a priest, pastor, friend, or therapist. Please, do not give up on yourself. Life has dealt you a lousy hand, but the rewards for learning to love and care for yourself are enormous.


Someday you will look back at where you were and feel deep gratitude for the person you once were. That person was suffering, but they took control of their life and that has created the new life you are enjoying.


There is joy in living. I know from your point of view that seems like an empty thing to say. However, it is true.


Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce. – Vivian Komori


When it comes to life the critical thing is, whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. – Gilbert Chesterton


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