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Empaths often find themselves entangled in codependent relationships.

These relationships can be particularly challenging for empaths to navigate due to our innate desire to heal and help.

In this article, I’ll explore the key differences between an empath and a codependent, and offer you strategies to overcome codependency as an empath. But first, let’s understand the intricate relationship between being an empath and codependent.

Are All Empaths Codependent?

Not all empaths are codependent, even though many of us may exhibit codependent tendencies.

Empaths are highly sensitive individuals who have the ability to feel and absorb the emotions of those around them. This sensitivity often leads empaths to be more aware and attuned to others’ needs, making it easier for them to fall into codependent patterns.

However, empaths who have worked on establishing healthy boundaries and practicing self-care are less likely to become codependent.

On the flip side, not all codependents are empaths too. Codependency is a learned behavior that stems from dysfunctional family dynamics such as neglect, abuse, or addiction. It can manifest in anyone, regardless of whether they identify as an empath.

It is important to recognize that being an empath and being codependent is not the same thing, but they can overlap in some ways.

The Difference Between an Empath and a Codependent

Empaths and codependents share some common traits, such as being highly sensitive to other people’s needs and having a strong desire to help others. However, there are key differences between these two personality types.


  • Feel and absorb the emotions of others.
  • Have a deep understanding and empathy for others’ feelings.
  • Often struggle with boundaries and can become overwhelmed by other people’s emotions.
  • Tend to have a strong sense of intuition and may experience psychic abilities.

Read this article to learn the main traits of being an empath.


  • Prioritize other people’s needs over their own.
  • Have a strong need for approval and validation from others.
  • Often have low self-esteem and may seek validation through caretaking or people-pleasing behaviors.
  • Struggle with setting boundaries and saying no to others’ requests.

Read this article for more signs of codependency.

In essence, an empath feels other people’s emotions on a deep level, while a codependent tends to focus on meeting others’ needs for the sake of maintaining relationships. The former is about understanding and experiencing emotions, while the latter is about external validation and approval.

Both of them struggle with setting boundaries. However, for an empath, it is more about learning to differentiate between their own emotions and those of others, while for a codependent it is about learning to prioritize their own needs and set limits with others.

Both Codependents and Empaths Attract Narcissists

Narcissists are attracted to both codependents and empaths and vice versa. However, the reasons are different.

For empaths, the attraction to narcissists often stems from a deeply ingrained desire to heal or fix others. Their ability to feel emotions so intensely can sometimes misguide them into believing they can change or save the narcissist, often at the cost of their own well-being. Empaths may also find the strong self-confidence and assertive nature of narcissists appealing, especially if they struggle with setting personal boundaries and suffer from low self-esteem.

On the other hand, codependents are drawn to narcissists because of their need for external validation and approval. Narcissists frequently exhibit charming and charismatic traits, which initially can make them appear affectionate and attractive to a codependent. Narcissists also thrive on being the center of attention and receiving validation from others. In contrast, codependents find satisfaction in being caretakers and pleasing people as it makes them feel needed. Therefore, this dynamic often results in narcissists and codependents being drawn to each other.

Codependents often find themselves in longer relationships with narcissists compared to empaths, due to this dynamic. This relationship dynamic meets the codependent’s need to give and serve while providing narcissists with the constant attention and admiration they crave. So it is more difficult to break away from each other.

On the other hand, empaths, known for their compassion and nurturing nature, initially attract narcissists who believe they will fulfill all their desires. However, once narcissists recognize that they are dealing with a healthy empath, the attraction may fade. Narcissists may start to lose interest because they do not receive the unwavering attention and service they seek, unlike codependents.

How to Stop Being a Codependent Empath

1. Understand the root causes of your codependency.

To overcome codependency, it is important to understand the reasons behind your behaviors. Often, codependency stems from childhood experiences, where you might have learned to equate love and worth with pleasing others.

For example, you might have witnessed one or both of your parents exhibiting codependent behaviors, and you subconsciously adopted them as your own. Or your parents may have been emotionally unavailable, causing you to feel neglected and seek love from others.

Whatever the root cause may be, acknowledging it is the first step towards healing. It invites you to extend compassion towards yourself and acknowledge that your coping mechanisms are learned behaviors that can be transformed.

2. Heal your past trauma.

After you have identified the root causes of your codependency, it is important to work through any past traumas that may have contributed to your behaviors. This could include therapy, self-reflection, or seeking support from a trusted friend or loved one.

Healing from past trauma allows you to release any emotional baggage that may be holding you back, ultimately breaking the cycle of codependency. For example, if you had a parent who was emotionally unavailable, therapy can help you process those feelings of abandonment and learn healthier ways to cope with them.

To heal your past trauma, you can also read my article on reparenting your wounded inner child.

3. Be aware of your codependent habits and interrupt the pattern.

Whenever you find yourself rushing to meet someone else’s needs or sacrificing yourself, take a moment to pause and be mindful of your actions. Ask yourself if this is truly what you want to do or if it’s coming from a place of seeking approval or fear of rejection.

Interrupting the pattern allows you to break free from codependent behaviors and make conscious choices that serve your highest good. Also, being mindful of your emotions and behaviors can help you process any underlying feelings that may be driving your codependency.

Check out the video below where I delve into my latest experience.

4. Identify your needs and learn to provide for yourself what you seek from others.

Codependents often seek validation, love, and attention from others because they lack it within themselves. This can lead to over-reliance on external sources, causing you to constantly seek approval and feel insecure when it isn’t received.

By identifying your needs and learning to provide for yourself, you break free from this cycle of seeking external validation. Take time to explore your interests, practice self-care, and build a strong sense of self-worth. This will help you become more emotionally self-sufficient and rely less on others for your happiness. It will also help you understand your boundaries and communicate them effectively to others.

5. Set boundaries and learn to say no.

As a codependent empath, you have a dual challenge in setting boundaries. First, you have difficulty telling your own emotions and needs apart from others. Second, you find it challenging to say no to others because you fear rejection, abandonment, or conflict. You may also find it guilty to leave people behind because you feel responsible for their emotional well-being.

But setting and enforcing boundaries is crucial for your own mental and emotional health. It allows you to prioritize yourself and avoid overextending yourself for others. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. It shows that you value and respect your own needs and boundaries. Remember, by saying no, you are not only honoring yourself but also teaching others how to treat you with respect and consideration.

6. Surround yourself with healthy relationships.

Codependency can often cause you to attract unhealthy relationships because of your tendency to put others’ needs above your own. As you work on breaking free from codependent behaviors, it is important to surround yourself with people who support and uplift you.

Avoid surrounding yourself with people who perpetuate your codependent habits. Recognizing red flags early in relationships is key. This awareness can help you avoid entering into codependent relationships in the future.

Instead, spend time with people who encourage you to set boundaries, communicate your needs, and prioritize self-care. Seek out individuals who respect and value your emotions and opinions. These healthy relationships will not only help you break free from codependency but also improve your overall well-being.

7. Practice detachment.

Detaching from the actions and emotions of others can be challenging for a codependent empath. However, it is crucial to recognize that you are not responsible for anyone else’s behavior or happiness, and practicing detachment can help maintain your own emotional well-being.

Practicing detachment does not mean you care less about others. Rather, it is about not allowing their actions or emotions to dictate your peace and happiness. It is about recognizing that while you can support and love someone, their life path is ultimately their own choice and responsibility.

Final Thoughts

Breaking codependent patterns takes time and effort. It is essential to be patient with yourself and practice self-compassion throughout the process. Also, remember that you can be a healthy empath without being codependent. Codependency is a learned behavior that can be unlearned over time.

Read this article to learn more about overcoming your codependency habits.