Are you worried that you or someone close to you is suffering from co-dependency? Help is at hand. Here we tell you a little about co-dependency, what to look out for and how we can get you or a loved one the best possible treatment.
What is co-dependency?
Co-dependency is a condition that leads to a dysfunctional relationship between the person with the condition and others. Put simply, a co-dependent is a person who is addicted to helping others in a way that exceeds what is considered the normal caring behaviour shown to another person. They need to be needed and it has been documented that the person with the co-dependency can be so strong and powerful in their behaviours that they will cause the other person to become needy. This behaviour is called enabling and the enabler will start to display behaviours that allow the co-dependent’s problems and behaviours to continue. For example, the enabler will purposely overlook negative, harmful behaviours, will make excuses for the co-dependent person, and will stop them from becoming independent or even from getting treatment. A co-dependent often has a belief that they are the only person who really understands, the only person who can help, and they will create situations and issues to reinforce their need to help and to remain a focal part of a person’s life. So to summarise, a co-dependency is an addiction to being needed.
Signs and symptoms of co-dependency
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know is co-dependent, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you/they expressed a feeling of being demeaned, hurt or offended if someone close to you/them has said they don’t need your/their help?
- Have you/they had others resort to arguing with you/them or challenging you/them in their frustration because they want you/them to stop trying to help them?
- If you/they were asked by someone for money to pay bills or buy food, etc. and you/they know they have an addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling, would you/they give them the money?
- When someone shares a life or relationship problem with you/them, but doesn’t ask for your/their help or advice, do you/they offer it to them regardless?
- When you/they reflect on your/their relationships, do you/they realise you/they are surrounded by people who need you/them?
- Do you/they ever find yourself/themself making excuses for the needy people in your/their life?
- If someone you/they love or is close to you/them has an addiction or emotional problem that affects their behaviour do you/they avoid challenging them?
- Do you/they measure your/their self-esteem against how much someone needs and depends on you/them?
- Do you/they ever remind people that they need you/them and ask them where they would be if you/they were not in their life?
If you have answered yes to any of the above, you should monitor your behaviour (or that of the person you’re concerned about) for a period of time.
If you have answered yes to three or more of these questions, you or they may have a co-dependency problem.
If you have answered yes to five or more questions then you or they need to seek professional help to challenge and understand the illness and seek help to change your/their behaviours.
Causes of co-dependency
People who have a co-dependency addiction often blame those around them for their behaviours and, in fact, use this to deny they have a problem. They will justify their actions and suggest that what they do is simply because they “love the person so much” and that the person “could not manage without them”. Realistically though, what the co-dependent person really needs is to recognise that others need to take care of themselves, take responsibility for their own problems and find a way of addressing them. If they were to stop supporting them they would have to take do this and learn how to deal with the challenges this brings. So, in essence, the co-dependent person is actually hurting the person with the drug, alcohol or gambling, etc. addiction, and not allowing them to feel the consequences of their behaviour and therefore accept that they too need to get professional help. Co-dependency, as with any other addiction, is caused by a feeling of emptiness, loneliness or low self-esteem. Instead of a substance, the co-dependent uses the needs of others to make them feel whole. That’s why they cannot allow the other person to recover; if they did the co-dependent wouldn’t be needed.
Unresolved patterns of co-dependency can lead to more serious problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, sex addiction and other self-destructive behaviours. Co-dependents may develop panic attacks and anxiety disorders. People with co-dependency are also more likely to attract further abuse from aggressive individuals and are more likely to stay in stressful jobs or relationships. They are less likely to seek medical attention when needed or to get promotions and tend to earn less money than those without co-dependency patterns. For some, the social insecurity caused by co-dependency can progress into full-blown social anxiety disorders like social phobia, avoidant personality disorder or painful shyness.
Treatment for Co-dependency.
It is vital that the co-dependent person seeks a treatment that helps them to understand and challenge the psychological reasons behind their negative behaviours. To find a way to improve on their own emotional and psychological well-being and self-esteem. In so doing, the co-dependent person may have to make the decision to break away from the relationship with the “needy” person, the substance addicted person. Or indeed they may decide they need to move away from the co-dependent to aid their own recovery.
A number of treatment options should be considered, including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, group and individual counselling, and 12 step focused intervention. These will help to identify the destructive thinking and behavioural patterns that are behind the co-dependency. They focus on shifting responsibility to yourself rather than on someone or something else. The benefits of effective treatment are feelings of safety and worthiness and regaining interest in your own life without depending on anyone else. At Addiction Helper we’ll give you all the advice and support you need for a healthy recovery from co-dependency.