There can be a whole host of related issues that can come with the complications of addiction. Codependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that can affect a person’s ability to form healthy, fulfilling, and mutually satisfying relationships. It is important to know that people can form codependency issues with substances as well as person-to-person relationships.
Often people with codependency have intentions that are good and well-meaning but their need to care for a person can become compulsive and even defeating. For example, a wife may make excuses for an alcoholic spouse’s behavior or a father may “call in favors” to avoid having their child experience the consequences of delinquent behavior. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you make excuses for someone else’s drinking?
Like any complicated psychological issue, codependency exists on a spectrum and can show itself in a lot of different ways. Manipulation, narcissism or an intense interest in one’s self, low self-esteem, people-pleasing, poor boundaries, and caretaking are just some of the symptoms of a codependent personality.
Because of its complicated nature, there are many different approaches to the treatment of codependency. As with many complicated psychological issues, the key to effective treatment is an individualized approach. Mental health treatment strategies are never “one size fits all.”
The decision to address issues with codependency can be very difficult but it is important as the first step towards regaining a sense of self-esteem, self-worth and, ultimately, a sense of independence. The journey towards codependency recovery should never be a source of shame and, here at Swift River Health, we’ll be with you through every step of the process.
Who Does Codependency Impact?
Codependency can affect anyone who maintains a close relationship with someone dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues. This can be parents, siblings, friends, romantic partners, and coworkers.
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Initially, codependency was almost always defined in the context of chemical dependency. Through research and understanding, mental health professionals have found that family dysfunction can also play a significant role in the development of codependency issues. When this is the case, issues with codependency can seem inherent because the person was only ever taught how to seek personal acceptance from external sources.
So, all in all, anyone can be impacted by codependency in their lives, whether they also face addiction, mental illness or physical illnesses.
Common Characteristics of Codependency
Like any medical condition, the sooner we can identify the symptoms of codependency, the sooner we can address the issues and start on the road to recovery. Because the nature of these issues is not black-and-white, there is a broad number of symptoms to identify. It is important to note that you do not have to be experiencing all of these symptoms to qualify as codependent.
Feelings of inadequacy and comparing yourself to others are signs that you may have self-esteem issues. This issue may not be readily apparent as many people have created a mask of confidence while feeling unlovable or inadequate on a subconscious level.
Boundaries can be defined as the invisible line that separates you and your belongings from other people. Belongings can refer to physical objects such as your body, home, money, and possessions. It can also refer to intangible aspects of your personality such as your feelings, thoughts, and needs. Some codependents have set boundaries that are weak and feel responsible for the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others. Others can be on the opposite end of that spectrum with very rigid boundaries that lead to being withdrawn and closed off. This issue very often leads to problems with intimacy.
An issue that goes hand-in-hand with poor boundaries is caretaking. People suffering from codependency often want to help a loved one to the point that they ignore their own needs. Feelings of empathy and sympathy for other people are natural but become problematic when they become more important than your own wellbeing.
Codependency can lead to obsessive behavior as well. A person may become transfixed on other people or relationships. A codependent person may make a mistake and become obsessed with that mistake while a mentally healthy person may learn from it and move on.
-Avoidance and Denial:
People struggling with codependency often have trouble facing or acknowledging their issues. They may have a mindset that shifts the blame for their issues on other people or situations. They also often deny themselves their own feelings and, rather, transfix on the feelings or needs of others. This can also be the opposite case, where a person may insist that they are self-sufficient and don’t need help. In this case they are denying themselves normal human feelings and emotions.
Codependents may have difficulty in conveying their thoughts, feelings, or needs. This may be due to the fact they form their thoughts and feelings around the thoughts and feelings of others, leading to a muddy or distorted sense of self. Along with this, a codependent person may be afraid to speak their opinions for fear of upsetting other people.
These are just some of the symptoms that make up the very complicated mental struggle of codependency. So, how can you recognize these in your life?
Patterns of Codependent Behavior
Codependents Anonymous has identified and categorized many behavioral patterns that coincide with typical symptoms of codependency. These behavioral patterns may apply to one or all of the symptoms described above. The patterns are separated into five categories: Denial, Low Self-Esteem, Compliance, Control, and Avoidance.
When experiencing the difficulties of codependency, a person will often:
- Perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the wellbeing of others
- Lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others
- Think they can take care of themselves without any help from others
Low Self-Esteem Patterns:
- Are embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts
- Value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own
- Have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries
- Compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger
- Put aside their own interests in order to do what others want
- Are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others
- Believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves
- Attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel
- Freely offer advice and direction without being asked
- Avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance
- Allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships
- Diminish their capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use the tools of recovery
If you or a loved one are showing signs of these patterns and behaviors, you’re not alone and Swift River Health is here to help.
Tackling the Issue of Codependency
In the past, family members of people dealing with addiction have been taught a number of techniques that are ultimately neither helpful nor practical. The traditional approach insists that a person dealing with addiction issues must hit “rock bottom” before they will start to display a willingness to change. In the past, we were also taught that helping your loved one is enabling their substance abuse and this means you are codependent.
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The balance between compassion and “tough love” approaches can be difficult to achieve. Codependency treatment at Swift River Health places emphasis on a variety of strategies to combat enabling behaviors such as:
- Understanding the benefits of positive communication even during difficult times.
- Using positive reinforcement to identify what strategies are working while allowing your loved one to properly experience and deal with the consequences of their actions.
- Taking real steps toward developing an awareness of what it means to take care of yourself as a priority rather than an afterthought.
At Swift River Health, we also know that it’s natural to have more questions so we’ve created a list of FAQs to help answer some of those burning questions.
What are the signs of a codependent person?
A codependent person will have difficulty functioning on their own. They may shape all of their decision making, actions, and behaviors around a person, process, or substance. In doing this, they often neglect their own personal needs in favor of the needs of other people. They may also form relationships that are one-sided and emotionally destructive or toxic.
What is a codependent behavior?
Common codependent behavior can be defined as any behavior in a relationship where one person actively enables another person’s addictions, irresponsibility, immaturity, or under-achievement. This behavior can also occur when a person finds their sense of self-worth from external, and often dysfunctional, sources.
What causes codependency?
Codependency does not happen overnight. With time, a person may begin to structure their whole life and decision-making process around pleasing another person. This may start when one person needs a caretaker and, in turn, the caretaker starts to feel as though they need to fill that role.
What is an example of codependency?
We often see examples of codependency when it comes to a child’s abuse of drugs or alcohol. Let’s say a mother acknowledges her son’s alcoholism but is also the one who provides the substance for him and gives him a place to live. She justifies this by telling herself that if he doesn’t get the substance from her, he’ll get it from strangers or other dangerous means. While this behavior is unhealthy for both parties involved, the mother may not have the necessary tools and techniques to remove herself and her son from the toxic situation.
Seeking Treatment in Massachusetts with Swift River
At Swift River, we challenge traditional approaches by working to change your interactions with your loved one so that sober living and behaviors become more rewarding than continued substance abuse. We offer recovery support that is based on your family’s particular needs and circumstances. We believe that the starting point for treatment should be based on the behavior, needs, severity, and openness to change of your loved one. It will also depend on your experiences, emotional state, and history as a family.
The most important aspect of Swift River’s approach to codependency treatment is that it is built for long-term success. Our aim is to instill lasting behavioral changes, skills, and techniques that will remain applicable to your particular situation moving forward.
If your or a loved one are struggling with addiction and codependency issues, Swift River is here to help. Now that you know what to expect, it’s time to make positive and permanent changes to your life. Contact us at 844-906-0978 to get the care you deserve.
- Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) Patterns and Characteristics of Codependency — Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) Patterns and Characteristics of Codependency