A codependent relationship consists of two individuals with dysfunctional personality traits where one relies on the other for meeting all of their emotional needs. Codependency also refers to a relationship where one person enables another’s irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior.
Codependency is often seen in family members of those with substance abuse issues. When a person is struggling with addiction, having a loved one who is codependent can make it even more difficult to achieve recovery. Codependent symptoms can worsen if they are not treated. Fortunately, treatment to reverse codependent behaviors is possible.
Symptoms of Codependency
All relationships are unique, but there are some common signs of symptoms of codependency or being in a codependent relationship. It’s important to note that codependent individuals may not display all of the symptoms listed. Some of the common signs of codependency include:
- Low self-esteem. Individuals who have low self-esteem have little confidence in themselves. They feel as though they are not good enough or constantly compare themselves to others. Some people with low self-esteem will put up a front by thinking highly of themselves while they actually feel inadequate.
- Little to no set boundaries. Boundaries are the limits that we put between ourselves and others. It’s sort of an imaginary line that separates what is yours and what is someone else’s. It applies to literal space and belongings as well as feelings, thoughts, and needs. Signs of codependency usually include having unhealthy or no boundaries. Individuals may feel responsible for other’s feelings or want to control others in order to feel secure.
- People-pleasing. People with codependency issues rarely say “no” to others. They care a great deal about the opinions of others and want to make sure they have a positive opinion of them. They will usually go out of their way and disregard their own needs in order to accommodate others.
- Caretaking. Individuals that are codependent with poor boundaries will put others before themselves in the caretaking role. They will want to help others to the point that they give up on themselves. If the other person doesn’t want help, the codependent individual may feel rejected.
- Control. Everyone needs some sense of control over their lives. Nobody wants to live in chaos and uncertainty. For codependents, control limits their ability to share how they feel. People with codependency issues also need to control those close to them in order to feel okay. Control provides a sense of safety and security to those who are codependent.
- Obsessions. When an individual is codependent, they tend to spend a great deal of time thinking about others. Their anxieties and fears cause an obsession with trying to decipher what others are thinking. They can also become obsessed and dwell on when they may have done something wrong.
- Denial. Often times, people with codependency issues will deny that they have a problem and insist on the problem being the other person. They may also jump from one relationship to the next and have the same issues. They will also deny their own feelings and needs while focusing on what others are feeling.
- Poor communication skills. Codependents have difficulty when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings, and needs to others. They will have trouble being truthful because they don’t want to upset anyone. In order to avoid arguments, individuals will fail to communicate their own emotions.
- Making excuses for other people’s behavior. Because they do not deal with their feelings directly, people with codependency issues will lie to themselves and make excuses for others’ poor behavior. This is because they feel responsible for others’, so they will blame others or rationalize bad behavior, hoping to maintain control.
- Painful emotions. Codependency issues will create stress and lead to troubled, painful emotions. The feelings of low self-esteem and shame create a fear of being judged, rejected, and abandoned. When the feelings are too much to handle, it can lead the individual to feel numb.
The Development of Codependency
As human beings, we are naturally dependent on our caregivers for food and safety. A child’s attachment to their caregiver is necessary for survival- both physically and emotionally.
Codependent behavior can stem from childhood, especially if the individual was exposed to addiction or had a troubled relationship with a parent early on. It can also be a learned behavior if the individual picked up cues from a parent that had codependent qualities.
If a parent is unable to provide a stable, supportive, and comforting home environment, codependency symptoms can arise when the child steps into the caregiver role or you feel flawed or unworthy. Unresolved childhood difficulties can contribute to adult codependent behavior when faced with a new relationship.
Codependency and Addiction
Addiction and codependency often go hand-in-hand as codependency was originally associated with partners of alcoholics. Addiction is a complex disease that presents its fair share of challenges to both the user as well as their loved ones. The illness places pressure on the loved ones to help the addicted person function better. Because it can be incredibly difficult to face, loved ones may want to ignore the problem or pretend that the behavior is acceptable. This, however, only makes it worse in the long run for everybody involved. By justifying the behavior, the individual is simply enabling their loved one’s addiction.
Treatment for codependency usually involves uncovering early childhood issues and how they have contributed to current destructive relationship patterns. The first step towards changing unhealthy behaviors is to understand it. An effective treatment plan for codependent individuals usually includes educational therapy, experiential groups as well as individual and group therapy. Those who are suffering from substance abuse and addiction will need to go through detoxification while simultaneously receiving psychological treatment for codependency issues.
Recovery requires a significant amount of growth for both the addicted individual as well as the codependent loved one. Luckily, treatment is available to those who would like to regain control over their lives. People will learn how to maneuver through recovery and establish healthy relationships in sobriety. Contact us today for more information.