Co-dependency is an interesting psychological phenomenon that is quite often misunderstood among mainstream society. Many co-dependent people are written off simply as being overbearing or manipulative. However, clinical co-dependency is a real psychological problem that requires definitive treatment to overcome. It is not something that a person will grow out of.
Within established psychotherapy, co-dependency is defined as a disorder in which the sufferer exhibits an irrational and overwhelming desire to feel accepted and needed by others. A good example would be a mother who finds it difficult to cope with normal life if her children exhibit any signs of independence. In such a case, it would be very evident when that mother is dealing with adult children who no longer live at home.
The good news is that co-dependency is very treatable. Years of research into the syndrome have given doctors a lot of insight into how the minds of co-dependents work. They have developed great strategies and therapies that have proven very effective in fighting the disorder.
Symptoms of Co-dependency
There is a distinct difference between someone who is overbearing and someone suffering from clinical co-dependency. It is important to understand those differences if you believe you might be dealing with a co-dependent person in your own life. The following are some of the more common symptoms a co-dependent person might exhibit:
- measuring his or her own self-worth by how much others need them
- developing a habit of reminding others how much they need him or her
- a tendency to focus on the needs of others even at his or her own expense
- an inability to maintain a long-term intimate relationship
- creating circumstances for the sole purpose of being able to step in and help
- feeling personally offended or demeaned when others refuse help being offered
- routine interference in other people’s lives, even when it’s made clear that interference is unwelcome.
No one knows for sure what causes co-dependence in some people. However, research suggests the behaviour relates back to something in the patient’s childhood that triggered feelings of inadequacy. Research continues in the hopes of figuring out the root causes of the disorder.
Potential Dangers of Co-Dependency
One of the difficulties of co-dependency is that it can gradually escalate until it becomes a dangerous situation. How does this happen? Through something known as ‘enabling’.
An enabler is one who routinely gives in to the co-dependent person and accepts the help, just to ‘keep the peace’, so to speak. If this behaviour continues long enough, the co-dependent person gains a dominant position in the relationship while the enabler loses ground. Eventually the enabler can lose enough self-sufficiency to end up with serious psychological problems of his or her own.
Another potential danger lies in the co-dependent person purposely creating negative circumstances in order to be able to offer assistance. As a co-dependent addiction grows, the situations being created can become potentially more dangerous.
As we mentioned earlier, co-dependency is very treatable. In fact, the addiction rehab process for co-dependency is very similar to that of drug or alcohol addiction – minus the detox. It involves identifying the root causes of the disorder, identifying triggers that encourage the individual to practice it, and developing coping mechanisms to prevent future co-dependent behaviour.
The most common form of rehab treatment is something known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a common form of psychotherapy that makes use of well-defined principles for understanding and treating mental disorders. The basics of CBT are as follows:
- Goal Setting – Unlike other forms of psychotherapy, CBT is not open-ended. During the initial consultation, the therapist will assess the patient and establish clear-cut goals to be reached as therapy progresses. Under ideal circumstances, CBT can be completed in 12 to 20 sessions.
- Thought Processes – An integral part of CBT is to work through the thought processes that are a normal part of the patient’s existence. More often than not, those thought processes need to be adjusted in order to teach the patient how to overcome the disorder. By changing how someone thinks, therapists can change the resulting actions.
- Avoidance – Avoidance is a great strategy as far as dealing with improper thought patterns and emotions. The avoidance strategy is one of identifying triggers and then learning to avoid circumstances that enable those triggers. Avoiding triggers helps to modify behaviour.
There may be times when co-dependency exists along with depression or some other type of mental disorder. If necessary, a therapist might prescribe certain medications to help regulate brain chemicals during the treatment process. Nevertheless, medication is never a long-term solution to the disorder. Only successful CBT and other psychotherapies can truly make a permanent difference.
Getting the Help You Need
Just like with alcohol & drug addiction, the first step in overcoming co-dependency is to admit you have a problem that requires help. If you or someone you love is exhibiting any of the symptoms previously listed, we encourage you to get in touch with a professional right away. Only a professional can evaluate an individual in light of those symptoms and present an appropriate diagnosis.
We would be happy to help you find a good rehab programme if you have been diagnosed as co-dependent. We work with fine clinics all over the UK, some of which include co-dependency rehab among their list of services. All of our clinics are fully certified, meeting our highest standards of safety and efficacy.
If you are willing to contact us, we promise to treat you with respect and compassion. We will explain all of your treatment options, answer your questions about financing, and even help you make arrangements for admission if you are ready to get started.
Our primary mission is to help every client who contacts us by being a link between him or her and the treatment he or she need. We are here to help you as well. All you need to do to get started is call us or send us an e-mail. We will take it from there.