Codependency is a type of dysfunctional, one-sided relationship. In a codependent relationship, one person relies on another to have their mental, physical, and emotional needs met. It is very common among addicts, who need the relationship to continue to function while continuing their addiction behaviors.
Whether you find yourself expending all of your energy in meeting another’s needs– a partner, a parent, a child– or you are the one demanding things of others, it is important to know more about this destructive pattern. Read on to learn more and see how you can take steps to minimize its effect on your life and relationships.
Codependency Early in Life
Codependency is a term that has been around for decades. It was originally a label for spouses of people who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. However, the definition often applies to relationships which do not operate in this partnership dynamic.
Studies suggest that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill or addicted parent, you likely have codependent tendencies in relationships. Here are some symptoms to help you decide if you are at risk:
Symptoms of Codependency
A person does not need to have all of these symptoms in order to display codependent tendencies. However, any of these symptoms is an indicator that you need to more closely examine your relationships. Some of these symptoms include:
- Low self esteem– you frequently base your feelings about yourself based on what you can do for others
- A need to please others– saying no to others causes you to feel guilty and anxious
- An inability to set boundaries– you frequently have an issue defining which problems are yours and which belong to others
- A tendency to become reactive or argumentative– feeling angry and resentful about what you “have to do” for others, so you overreact to words and situations
- A need to take care of others– feeling a need to shield others from pain and adverse circumstances, often taking them on yourself
- A need to control situations and people in your life
- Difficulty with communication– you have an inability to express your true thoughts and feelings
- A tendency to obsess over people, problems, or circumstances
- Denial– you may be not even aware that there is a problem with the way you relate to others around you
- Problems with intimacy– you experience a push pull when it comes to spending enough time being authentic with others
When Codependency Takes Over
Once conditions in your life have become unbearable, or if you realize that these patterns present in any relationship are holding you back from being your most authentic self, it’s time for some pattern-breaking interventions. Depending on the length of time that you’ve spent living in these relationships, you may require the help of a therapist to provide an outside perspective on your situation. Often, an outside perspective is what it takes to begin the process of looking at your relationship patterns objectively and beginning to implement new, healthier ways of living, being and relating.
Codependency and its Relationship to Addiction
Codependency is the perfect breeding ground for addiction to flourish. Enabling behaviors such as covering up for another person, making excuses for their behavior, or giving money to them will keep both people locked in a cycle of addiction. In some cases, a relationship addiction can develop in which both the abuser and the observer are so accustomed to their current status quo that they refuse to look outside for help.
Breaking the Cycle
Realizing that codependent and enabling behaviors exist is the first step to changing those patterns. Once you’re aware of the problem, you can being working towards solutions. Mainly, stopping the enabling behaviors and getting to the root of the codependent dynamic.
The enabler needs to realize that the problems in the relationship are not solely theirs to fix. While the addicted individual needs to take responsibility for their actions. Typically addicts will require professional treatment in order to break the cycle of addiction.
If you or a loved one is struggling with codependency and addiction issues, there is hope. The first step is seeking treatment for the addicted individual. This process will also mean re-establishing healthier ways of relating to each other and creating boundaries for both parties. At Harmony Recovery Group we treat addiction in both the individual and family through family and relationship therapy. Find out how we can help, call us today.