Whilst many of us have an awareness of what addiction is, fewer people are aware of an illness that can exist in those alongside the person with an addiction, which is known as co-dependency. Co-dependency is thought to be a learnt behaviour that the person develops as a result of witnessing adults in their childhood acting in a similar way. Co-dependent thoughts and behaviours prevent the person from having a healthy, mutually fulfilling relationship – they are more likely to seek out relationships that are destructive, one-sided and emotionally or physically abusive.

Now obviously no-one would intentionally choose this sort of relationship in their right frame of mind, but it is important to remember it is a psychological illness; co-dependent people are not in their right frame of mind. They have low self-esteem and seek out people that need them. This is why co-dependency is so typically found within addiction – because the addict needs to be taken care of. It is this need to be needed that is met by forming or maintaining a relationship with an addict. Remember co-dependency can also be seen in other relationships such as between parent and child.

Co-dependents have good intentions, however their behaviour can actually prove to be extremely unhealthy both for themselves and the addicted person. Co-dependents will often get to the point where they will suffer seemingly for the sake of their loved one, whether it is covering for a husband to his boss, taking the blame for a car accident caused when a daughter was driving under the influence – all of these things come from good intention, but cause stress for the co-dependent and prevent the addict from feeling the consequences of their behaviour.

If you recognise any of the below symptoms within yourself or a loved one, there may be co-dependency issues present:

• An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others

• A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue

• A tendency to always do more than their fair share, whether it is housework, reading bedtime stories or making the effort in a relationship

• A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognise their efforts

• An unhealthy dependency on relationships – a co-dependent would rather be in a failing relationship than no relationship at all

• A extreme need for approval or recognition

• A compelling need to control others

The list continues, but if co-dependency is present, this should already be ringing bells. Co-dependents Anonymous is designed to help those who are having these concerns. It will help the person to recognise that what they are doing is not healthy, and teach them ways to be happy with themselves, without the input of others. If you have any questions about any of the above information, please feel free to contact us.

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