Codependence and addiction: the two can go hand in hand. While it sounds like a positive, being codependent can be a problem in relationships. Is codependency a problem in your relationship? Knowing what codependency looks like can help you have healthier and happier relationships.
What Is Codependence?
Codependence is a controversial term. According to Dual Diagnosis, “to some, it’s a word that could be applied to a reasonable set of behaviors a family engages in when facing a substance abuse problem.” Other people consider codependence part of a mental illness, while others question whether codependence exists.
What is it? If you are in a codependent relationship, one of the people in that relationship is willing to do anything to continue that relationship. That means that he or she will always prioritize the other’s needs, even if it hurts. People who are codependent want love and are afraid of rejection in the context of interpersonal relationships. Codependence moves relationships from a healthy give and take and an ability to have productive conflict into a space that is not healthy for either person involved in the relationship. For this reason, it has been described as a relationship or love addiction.
Signs of Codependence
How do you know if you are in a codependent relationship? Some of the signs of codependency include:
- A need to control and improve others
- Unclear boundaries
- Feelings of guilt, fear, and perfectionism
- Large emotional reactions that are out of proportion to the situation
- A need to please and desperate fear of being rejected by the other person
When you are codependent, you have a hard time forming ongoing, loving relationships because you are caught up in the need to please or control the other person.
Why Are People Codependent?
According to Dual Diagnosis, codependency can begin in childhood, when people learn how to have relationships with others. If a parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the child can become more like an adult. However, the child still tries to seek the parent’s approval and maintain a sense of control in the family. Those who are not addicted can move into the place of the addicted person, trying to manage family affairs. While this kind of behavior makes sense at that moment, it can be a challenge to grow up with this behavior pattern. In an adult relationship, it does not make sense for one person to become compulsively controlling of the other person’s actions. At this point, those patterns that were laid down in childhood can become problematic for the people involved in that relationship.
Is Codependence an Addiction?
Like other forms of addiction, codependence can be obsessive and compulsive. Psych Central describes codependence as “a chronic and progressive disease of “lost-selfhood” with recognizable, treatable symptoms — just like chemical dependence.” Over time, people who are codependent cannot stop thinking about the other person. They engage in behaviors that are not healthy. For example, someone who is codependent might track their spouse’s texts or phone calls.
Codependence can progress over time. For instance, it might start with a mild dependency and denial of this dependency and the connected dysfunctional behaviors. It progresses to a craving to be with the other person constantly, to know where that person is and what they are doing, and to control that person’s behavior. Over time, the individual involved cannot stop this compulsion to control, track, and connect with the other person, and the behavior looks a lot like other addictions. If you are codependent, you might stop other activities to focus on the other person, and your regular work life will suffer. You continue focusing on the person no matter what kinds of problems there are in the relationship; some of these problems can be caused by the codependence itself. The person involved then requires treatment to work on this habit of dysfunctional connection.
Why Is Codependence Unhelpful in Addiction Recovery?
If someone who is addicted is also codependent, this can make recovery more challenging. Similarily, if the person who is addicted is in a relationship with someone who is codependent, they can also have a harder time achieving sobriety, as the person’s codependency is not healthy for the relationship and could inadvertently support the addiction.
Why do you need to work on reducing codependence, especially if addiction is a factor in your relationships?
- Codependency can mean that you lose your ability to decide what you want and to make choices to achieve this. You are so focused on the relationship with the other person that you do not prioritize yourself and your own recovery.
- Codependency comes from anxiety and a need for control. This can lead to other challenges, such as self-harm or eating disorders. These make it more difficult to have a healthy lifestyle that supports sobriety.
- People with codependent tendencies may seek out what they know in relationships. If they grew up in an unhealthy environment in which one person was addicted, they look for people who fit that pattern. If you are susceptible to substance misuse and you unconsciously partner with people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, this can make your relationship much more challenging. As someone who is codependent, you might feel compelled to support that addiction and control that person.
Eliminating Codependence From Your Relationships
If you are trying to eliminate codependence from your relationships, where can you find support?
- Individual counseling and therapy. This will help you determine directions for your life and build the skills that you need to move away from codependency.
- Family therapy to support better, stronger family structures.
- Support groups for codependency. Working with and talking to others who have experienced the same challenges and have found meaning for themselves can help you move out of codependent tendencies and relationships.
- Support for mental illness. People with codependency often experience other forms of mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. Working on this can help you form better relationship strategies.
- Medication management with a recovery center will help you manage anxiety and depression.
Are you looking for Colorado addiction treatment resources? Talk to us. At The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, we are here to help you move successfully into sobriety. Contact us to learn about admissions today.