Codependency is a term that originated in the 1970s to describe dysfunctional characteristics of family members on the opposite side of a loved one struggling with addiction. It came about when addiction therapists began noticing that the family members of those they were being treated for alcoholism or drug abuse had particular traits or behaviors that weren’t necessarily all that healthy. They noticed a particular dysfunctional theme running in these relationships between both parties.
Today, codependency is a much broader term, encompassing more than just relationships marked with substance abuse. Essentially, codependency is an unhealthy attachment to another person. You could say one is acting codependent when they rely on others for their self-worth, enable others, act as a caregiver for others, and so on.
Many characteristics are associated with codependency. You may notice that you struggle with a few or many of them. Some people are highly codependent, and some are slightly codependent. This can vary depending on the level of emotional issues they are contending with.
You can become codependent upon a partner/spouse, friend, parent, or other people. Often, you’ll find that on the opposite end of someone struggling with alcoholism or addiction is someone struggling with codependency. At the same time, the person struggling with addiction may exhibit codependent behaviors as well.
Common characteristics associated with codependency include:
Codependency behaviors can ultimately destroy a relationship. The codependent person is likely to be emotionally immature, and the behaviors that result can break down the relationship over time.
For example, let’s say someone who is codependent gets together with someone with alcohol use disorder. The relationship might do all right in the beginning, as many relationships do. But over time, codependent behaviors such as enabling, controlling, neediness, jealousy, high anxiety, or not being able to have rational conversations when conflict arises can certainly cause the partner to distance him or herself. The codependent behavior feeds off the partner’s drinking or addictive behaviors, and the mix usually ends up causing a lot of pain for both of them.
Mental health experts report that codependency typically comes about because of an attachment disorder in childhood. This means that the person may not have had a secure attachment to either mom or dad growing up. There could have been addiction going on in the family, or it could result from abuse, trauma, or neglect. This insecure attachment as a child can result in codependent characteristics as an adult.
If you have an addiction to alcohol or a drug and codependency, rehab can certainly help you.
You can be treated for both the addiction and the codependency. Having a therapist work with you concerning the codependent traits can be quite helpful in minimizing or eliminating the codependent traits.
If you’re not battling with addiction, but you are struggling with codependency, you don’t necessarily have to attend rehab. A good therapist may suffice. However, there are a few reputable treatment centers that deal specifically with codependency.
Often, a rehab will treat both the person who has an addiction and the family members or loved ones who are codependent. It’s a good idea to ask about this when you’re seeking a rehab to attend.
Addiction doesn’t just affect the person who has the addiction. It can affect every family member. This is why it is important that the family receive counseling, too. Whether it’s at a rehab or mental health clinic, therapy can help the family members learn how to best support their loved one and contend with any challenging codependent characteristics they have.
Several support groups are helpful for those who are codependent, too. There’s Codependents Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Nar-Anon. These 12-Step support groups can help you learn more about codependent behaviors and how to address them. They are a safe place for you to go and share and begin a journey toward healing old wounds and practicing self-care and self-love.
If you’re living with someone in active addiction, support groups like these can help you learn how to best support your loved one and take care of yourself at the same time. For teenagers, consider attending Alateen.
If you’re in a relationship where one is struggling with addiction, and the other is codependent, you may wonder if you could both attend the same rehab. While many rehabs provide counseling services for the family of people in active addiction, not all rehabs do. Always check with the rehab and ask about this before committing to attend one.
Attending the same rehab can be helpful for the relationship. It’s likely that the rehab will offer outpatient counseling services for the family members, while the person with an addiction will have the option for inpatient or outpatient treatment. If the rehab offers family counseling, it can benefit you to attend this, as it gives everyone in the family a chance to share and receive counseling should they need.
If you have codependency characteristics, it’s going to take time and practice to decrease or overcome them. Is codependency completely curable?
Yes, but codependency recovery does take time, patience, and some practice. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice new attitudes and behaviors in a relationship.
Are you struggling with codependency? If so, know that it is treatable. You can begin working with a therapist and/or attending a support group to begin your journey toward overcoming codependency. If you are in a relationship with someone who is battling with alcoholism and/or addiction, you may indeed have some codependent characteristics you’re contending with. Sit down with your loved one and discuss getting help for the both of you. When you can both approach recovery on the same page, your relationship is much more likely to flourish.