Codependency is a behavioral condition. It is seen in relationships where one partner (the codependent) is emotionally reliant on the other partner. Addiction and Health tell us that in the past, the term was mainly used to refer to relationships where one partner abuses substances and the other acts as a caretaker.
The other partner, the codependent, or the ‘enabler’, takes on the role of savior. They attempt to rescue the substance abuser from themselves. They end up enabling the addiction and making their own mental health worse.
From the outside, the codependent person seems to have the best intentions. They put their partner’s needs before their own. They go to great lengths to keep them happy. However, codependency in one partner can make addiction in the other partner worse.
Therapy and Support for Codependency
At Excel Treatment Center, we understand the impact of codependency. We know that it often relates to a need for outside validation. Trying to save another person may be an attempt to distract oneself from difficult thoughts and emotions. Such emotions include feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth.
We offer compassionate therapy and recovery programs here at Excel. Our goal is to restore in clients a strong sense of self-worth and self-compassion. If you are struggling with codependency, reach out to us at Excel today.
We use various therapies to help clients explore their issues. With treatment at Excel, clients can gain a deep understanding and insight into their behavior. Codependency can be difficult to live with, but with compassionate and supportive treatment, you can recover.
What Does Codependency Look Like?
To better understand codependency, let’s use an example. Take an alcoholic husband and a codependent wife. The husband’s drinking is impacting his job, their relationship, and the health of the family.
The codependent wife sees the pain that her husband is going through. She empathizes with his pain. She does as much as she can to make him feel better. The most appropriate thing to do in this situation would be to seek the support and guidance of an addiction professional.
The addiction professional would explain to the wife that drug addiction is an all-consuming condition. They would explain that the husband must be personally ready to receive help. The professional would likely advise about recovery options or intervention services.
The wife might sacrifice her well-being in an attempt to ‘save’ her husband. The addiction professional might advise the wife to put her own health and well-being first.
Unfortunately, this is not the approach that most codependents take. Instead, the codependent wife might enable her husband’s addiction. She might do this by neglecting her own needs. Her priority will be making sure that her husband experiences the least amount of pain and discomfort as possible.
This might be making a sick call to his job if he is too hungover to go to work or cleaning up if he gets ill. This might be so that the children don’t see their father passed out from drinking.
The problem is addiction is inherently a painful condition. Those suffering need to go through some challenging steps to get better, and sometimes, it takes a job or relationship loss for the addicted person to wake up to the problem. The person must be ready and willing to get help.
Codependency and Addiction
People who suffer from codependency might act the way they do out of a need to be needed. There is a sense of reward or validation that comes from being needed by another person.
The causes of codependent behavior are not always clear. Research suggests that codependency develops as learned behavior from childhood experiences.
If a person is codependent, it means that they rely on validation from their relationships. They might not be able to validate themselves. Very often, a codependent person will get into a relationship with a person who abuses substances. This lets them feel needed and important.
This gives the codependent a chance to become a caretaker and be needed. The feeling of being needed is important for the codependent.
Codependency is harmful to both the person suffering and their partner. It leads a person to feel unsatisfied with their life but prevents them from making changes for the better.
A codependent person might come to feel that they exist to take care of their partner. This places enormous pressure on the codependent. As a result, they may engage in unhealthy coping behaviors themselves.
A codependent person living with an alcoholic partner might end up using alcohol as well to cope with their own difficult feelings. Alternatively, they might develop another behavioral addiction, such as shopping or gambling addiction.
Codependency is a learned behavior and is not fixed by substance use. Some people will continue to use substances to cope, and these people are likely to develop a substance use disorder. This makes their condition even more challenging to deal with.
- Childhood neglect
- Child abuse
- Domestic violence
- Narcissistic parents
- Troubled upbringing
- Low self-esteem
Treatment for Codependency and Addiction
When codependency and addiction co-occur, integrated treatment is needed. Addiction is a progressive condition. When combined with codependency, it can progress quickly and devastate a person’s life.
Integrated treatment for codependency and addiction is available at Excel Treatment Center. We have a team of mental health and addiction specialists at hand. Our team can offer effective treatment for your co-occurring disorders.
If you are struggling with co-occurring codependency and addiction, please reach out to us as soon as possible. With expert-led treatment, we can provide clients with the tools and skills necessary to rebuild their life.
Much of the research published on codependency involves codependents in relationships with alcoholic partners. Codependent relationships can also involve other substances.
According to the journal American Family Physician, codependents usually learn their behavior from other family members. If a child watches a codependent parent, they might learn that behavior and carry it into their adult life.
Codependents usually have low self-esteem. They tend to seek outside validation to make themselves feel better. Sometimes, this involves the use of substances like alcohol and other drugs. Others might become workaholics or develop a behavioral disorder like an eating disorder or a gambling addiction.
The codependent may have the best intentions. They may be living with an alcoholic partner or someone with a mental illness and take on the role of caretaker. Despite their good intentions, codependency can become a compulsion.
When it becomes compulsive, it can take over a person’s life. The behavior is generally self-defeating, making the codependent feel bad about themselves.
The codependent might sacrifice their own wants and needs to satisfy those of their partner. For example, a codependent husband might buy alcohol for his alcoholic wife. He might do this to prevent her from driving to the liquor store while drunk.
The issue is that this behavior enables the destructive behavior of the partner. This serves to worsen the partner’s condition. As the partner continues to abuse drugs or alcohol, they become more reliant on the codependent. The codependent then feels needed, which is rewarding.
When codependency becomes a compulsion, the codependent may feel they have no way to change their situation. They feel helpless. They may be aware of the problem but feel unable to change their behavior.
What Are the Symptoms of Codependency?
The symptoms of codependency are many, and they may not be obvious at first. Over-time, they can cause mental fatigue and feelings of low self-worth.
Eventually, they can cause the codependent to seek out unhealthy ways of feeling better.
According to the Asia Pacific Journal of Counseling and Psychotherapy, common symptoms of codependency include:
- One-to-one Counseling
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Psychiatric evaluation
- Yoga & Meditation
- Music Therapy
- 12 Step Classes
- Relapse Prevention Techniques
How Is Codependency Treated?
Codependency often has its roots in childhood. This means that treatment should involve therapy that looks at clients’ childhood experiences. This helps clients to identify issues in their childhood and understand how those issues are affecting them today.
Effective treatment for codependency includes:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Experiential therapies
At Excel, we offer all of the above treatments. These therapies help clients regain a sense of control over their lives. Therapy also involves connecting the client with parts of themselves that they have buried.
The goal of treatment for codependency is to help clients understand their feelings. In therapy, clients can learn how to be with their feelings in a healthy way.
Treatment for co-occurring codependency and addiction is more complex. Still, similar goals can be achieved. Codependency usually stems from difficult childhood experiences, and these must be uncovered before the person suffering can heal. Addiction complicates treatment because, like codependency, it often stems from feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem.
Treatment at Excel involves an individually tailored treatment program specific to your needs. We treat addiction and codependency with evidence-based approaches for both.
Addiction treatment involves a medically supervised detox. Following detox, and when withdrawal symptoms are under control, multiple therapies are provided. These help clients explore their difficult feelings and build valuable life skills to use in and out of treatment.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please reach out to us today. We’re here to help.