Codependency Recovery

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Codependency Recovery

Taking care of someone you love is commendable and it is sometimes a necessary part of life. Parents take care of children, spouses and partners watch out for one another and friends look out for friends. However, relationships sometimes become distorted and unhealthy.

In a codependent relationship, one person sacrifices his or her needs to care for the other, who often has a mental illness or substance abuse problem. The relationship becomes more important than addressing any underlying issues, or even taking care of one’s own mental, physical and emotional health, which is why codependency has also been described as “love addiction.” This type of unhealthy relationship behavior can lead to problems for both members of the relationship.

At Sovereign Health of California, we offer support for family members and loved ones of those in our addiction and mental health disorder treatment programs. We work to repair damaged relationships and we know that at times, family members and loved ones need additional support for codependency recovery.

What is codependency?

Codependency is a psychological condition in which one person is in a relationship with and provides care for another to meet their own emotional or psychological needs. The relationship defines the caregiver’s sense of self-worth, so he or she is often controlled or manipulated by the other person, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Typically, the other person has some sort of pathological condition, such as a mental health disorder or substance abuse. The codependent person will make excuses for the other person’s unhealthy behavior and allow that person’s disorder to rule the relationship and the codependent’s life. Furthermore, a codependent will not encourage a person to get help for the disorder, which only exacerbates the problems.

The term codependency was initially used to describe partners of alcoholics and drug addicts in order to explain the pattern of behavior a person displayed in the relationship that typically enabled the problem. However, the term is now used to describe people who display the same behavioral pattern even when the other person in the relationship does not have a disorder. Although most codependent relationships have one party as the codependent and one as the person either needing the help or displaying a stronger and often narcissistic character, in some relationships both members have a codependency problem.

Any type of interpersonal relationship can be codependent, including those between spouses, romantic partners, children and parents, siblings, other family members, friends and even co-workers.

Symptoms of codependency

Many people in a codependent relationship display similar personality or behavioral patterns. However, codependency is a complicated psychological condition, so not everyone will display the exact same signs or symptoms. If you are concerned that you or someone you love is in a codependent relationship, you should talk to someone about your concerns.

If someone is in a relationship that they value more than the person values themselves, then that person is in danger of being in a codependent and unhealthy relationship. In these relationships, the attention and energy of the codependent becomes focused on the other person who is often ill or has an addiction. When that happens, the codependent neglects the needs of their own life. The other person’s happiness, health,] and well-being becomes unhealthily intertwined with one’s own and becomes more important. People who are codependents often have the following traits:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Not feeling worthy of being in a relationship so will stay in one, regardless of the situation
  • Defines the self and any admirable qualities by a comparison to the other person and how well he or she fixes and cleans up after the other person
  • An exaggerated feeling of responsibility over another’s health and welfare by the caregiver
  • A desire to help or fix people
  • Easily hurt by others, especially when the help given is not recognized
  • A fear of being alone and always needing to be in a relationship
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Lack of trust and at the same time lying or being dishonest, especially with oneself
  • Difficulty being assertive or caring for his or her own needs
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Problems with intimacy and communicating feelings
  • Overly concerned about what others think
  • Feels embarrassed when either they or a loved one makes a mistake
  • A people pleaser with difficulty saying no
  • Poor interpersonal boundaries, either too rigid or too loose

To get an indication of whether you or someone you love might be in a codependent relationship, ask:

  1. Is the relationship and/or the partner more important than the person’s mental, physical, social and emotional health?
  2. How much energy does the other person put into the relationship?

What is important is whether there is balance in the relationship.

Cause of codependency

Childhood strongly influences whether people unconsciously seek out codependent relationships when they are older. Studies have shown that people raised in dysfunctional families or with a chronically ill parent are at high risk of becoming codependent. Additionally, children who were abandoned or abused or have parents with a disorder tend to look for similar relationships as an adult. Codependent people grow up believing that loving and caring for someone is about sacrificing oneself, so that is what they do in order to remain in a relationship.

Types of relationships at risk of being codependent

The kind of relationships most at risk of having at least one member becoming codependent are those where one person has some type of ongoing problem. The problem could be substance abuse or addiction, a mental health disorder, a chronic illness or some other circumstance requiring help from another person. The more help a person requires for a disorder, the more at risk the relationship is for becoming codependent. People who are narcissistic, have poor impulse control or are selfish are perceived by the codependent as damaged or broken, or in some way out of control and tend to become magnets for codependent relationships because codependents get gratification from trying to fix someone or feeling like a martyr.

Problem of codependency

Taking care of a loved one is important and often necessary, but codependency is problematic for everyone involved. The codependent puts the other person’s needs above his or her own welfare, which can lead to mental health disorders or substance abuse problems on the part of the codependent. Furthermore, the person with the problem that is enabled by the codependent does not get the help he or she needs, so the problem only worsens. As the person becomes more dependent upon the codependent’s help, the codependent feels more needed, which becomes a vicious cycle where no one receives help.

Codependency treatment

Codependency requires treatment just as substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders need treatment. Psychotherapy is an important treatment tool that can help a person with codependent behavior patterns learn to overcome self-destructive habits and have healthier relationships. A person must recognize the compulsion and destructive patterns leading to the codependency issues. Often, there are underlying emotional and behavioral issues, typically from childhood, that must be addressed in order for codependents to stop their destructive behavior. Treatment for codependency also puts an emphasis on how to love oneself and learn to put oneself first. For some people, leaving the relationship is the most important step he or she can take in order to regain control and help oneself.

Although there are support groups for codependency, it is hard to find dedicated codependency treatment centers. Some facilities, such as Sovereign Health, offer family therapy in order to help rebuild relationships. Sometimes, a person does not realize that he or she has codependency problems. Undergoing family and relationship counseling with the person who has entered a treatment program can help rebuild the relationship as well as identify and work on codependency behavioral patterns. It is helpful for families to go through therapy together in order to recognize the destructive behavioral patterns that contributed to the issues, in addition to individual therapy for each person’s own issues. If a codependent person has mental health or substance abuse problems of their own, entering a treatment program such as ours at Sovereign Health can help with those problems as well as the codependency.

Meditation, stress relieving activities, yoga, and similar beneficial therapeutic activities can also help a codependent regain control over their life. There are also support groups that help people with codependency, such as Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Nar-Anon, Ala-teen and Codependents Anonymous. These support groups can help a person remain in control and not let another person or relationship become more important than the health of one’s self.

Sovereign Health of California

Sovereign Health Group understands the effect one person’s behavioral problem, such as addiction or depression, can have on an entire family. We have a family program that runs from Thursday to Saturday to provide support and education to the families of our patients. We offer educational seminars and family therapy, with and without the patient and case management. Families learn about the patient’s problem, the recovery process, the importance of continuing care and the dangers of codependency. They also have a chance to experience healing moments and therapeutic encounters both alone and with the patient during individual and group psychotherapy sessions and experiential treatment. Families are also able to spend time together. If a family member recognizes a problem, such as codependency, during this weekend family program, we will support them in finding the necessary treatment, which might include entering one of our programs.

A codependent person might also have their own mental health, substance abuse or addiction problems. At Sovereign Health, we offer treatment for a variety of behavioral health problems. We treat the individual holistically in order to heal all underlying issues, including codependency. You can also contact our admissions team at 866-629-0442 for a confidential assessment.

verified by Psychology Today