There are many benefits to helping those in need, especially the people closest to you. Giving your time, attention and assistance to others can be tremendously positive. Research shows that helping can be a healthy distraction, elevate your mood, increase self satisfaction, improve your connections with others, and meet societal needs. Your giving can bring both help and hope to others. 

But, there’s a flip side. Too much helping and giving can be detrimental to both yourself and others. It can deplete your time, energy, financial resources, and your overall physical and mental well-being. When over-giving becomes extreme, you can find yourself falling into the trap of codependence. “With codependency, the need to support others goes beyond what’s generally considered healthy. If you behave in codependent ways, you don’t just offer support temporarily, such as when a loved one faces a setback. Instead, you tend to focus on caretaking and caring for others to the point that you begin to define yourself in relation to their needs”.

Are you in a codependent relationship? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need approval from others?

  • Do I care greatly about what others think of me?

  • Do I take on more work than I can realistically handle, either to earn praise or lighten a loved one’s burden?

  • Do I tend to apologize or assume blame in order to keep peace?

  • Do I avoid conflict?

  • Do I minimize or ignore my own wishes, plans, or desires?

  • Do I have excessive concern about a loved one’s habits or behaviors?

  • Do I  make decisions for others or try to “manage” them?

  • Do I pretend to be OK when I’m not?

  • Do I feel guilt or anxiety when doing something for myself?

  • Do I do things I don’t really want to do, just to make others happy?

  • Do I have fear of rejection or abandonment if I don’t help?

By self-reflecting, you can identify ways in which altruistic behaviors can result in negative consequences. In Psychology Today, Dr. Shawn Meghan Burn, Professor of Psychology at California Polytechnic State University, states, “Many helpful caring people, particularly those that identify as codependent, impulsively rescue others from their self-imposed predicaments. They stay in dysfunctional helping and giving relationships even when their resources or relationships are strained, or they enable others’ addiction, incompetence, or irresponsibility.”