Codependency is classified as a behavioral pattern where people take on a caretaker role in relationships. People who are codependent usually disregard their own needs in favor of the other person’s. The individual feels fulfilled and content in being needed by someone else.

Codependency and Addiction

On its own, codependency can make it incredibly difficult to maintain a healthy relationship. The behavioral pattern can be passed down through generations of family, and learned by watching family members exhibit these patterns. For those growing up in addicted households, learning to hide emotions is common. When family members do not address addiction or even deny it, it teaches others to ignore the issue as well. Those growing up in this type of environment learn to enable others who are battling addiction.

Codependency is known as a form of addiction in itself, “relationship addiction”. Codependent relationships are often one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive. It often affects a spouse, parent, sibling, or friend of a person struggling with alcohol or substance addiction. Similar traits can also occur in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. While the person struggling with addiction is fixated on their substance of choice, the codependent is fixated on the person addicted.

Codependent Behaviors

Codependent individuals generally have low self-esteem and count on the other individual to make them feel better. Some may develop an addiction or compulsive behavior in an effort to feel better. Although their intentions are good, their caretaking role becomes compulsive and defeating. They often cover for, make excuses, or pull strings for their loved ones. This results in their addicted person continuing down a path of destructive behavior.

The repeated rescue attempts from the codependent individual allow the other to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking. The reliance becomes compulsive for the codependent, and results in a feeling of helplessness for the codependent. They are unable to break away from this behavior, regardless of their feelings.

Codependent Characteristics

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for others
  • A tendency to do more than their share at all times
  • Easily hurt when their efforts aren’t recognized by others
  • Tendency to confuse love and pity
  • An extreme need for approval
  • A compelling need to control
  • Lack of trust in themselves and others
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Excessive fear of abandonment
  • Poor communication skills
  • Chronic anger issues
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships
  • Feeling guilty when asserting themselves
  • Problems with boundaries
  • Issues with lying or dishonesty
  • Attracted to needy people
  • Rejects compliments or praise

How Codependency is Treated

In the case of codependency, it is important for all individuals to receive the proper treatment. Since codependency often occurs simultaneously with substance addiction, it is critical for the codependent to get the help they need in order to allow the addicted individual to achieve sobriety.

In treatment, those struggling with substance dependency with a codependent partner or family member will be able to explore their role in the unhealthy relationship. They are able to gain insight and useful tools for navigating through relationship hurdles during recovery.

While individuals are treated for substance abuse, family therapy is encouraged for those dealing with codependency. Different therapy methods allow the individual to explore early childhood issues that may have impacted their destructive relationship patterns. Treatment for codependency allows the individual to rediscover themselves and identify behavior patterns that are self-destructive. The goal of treatment is to allow individuals to feel their full range of emotions and get in touch with feelings that may have been buried.

It is vital for individuals to receive treatment for codependency for the benefit of both parties. Treatment allows healthy boundaries to be established and setting new relational expectations for healing all those involved.


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