Warner Park Recovery Center – Woodland Hills Mental Health

Codependency

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In today’s day and age, with the rise of technology and all that is ever growing and changing in the world it is so important now, more than ever to have strong, healthy, and fulfilling relationships. Connection and expression are the highlights of our lives. When we are able to be our authentic selves in the presence of others while practicing giving and receiving, we are able to grow and experience joy. Connecting with others through healthy relationships and friendships is our natural way of finding a sense of belonging and purpose. Having a friend, significant other, or family member in your corner can make the days all that much easier to bear no matter what we may be facing.

But what happens when we give too much of ourselves in a relationship? When we don’t set boundaries, or stay honest, or take time for ourselves?

Codependency is a struggle for many people in relationships where mental health and addiction are present. Addressing codependency issues within interpersonal relationships and the family unit can be essential to an addict or alcoholic achieving long term recovery.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a concept used to characterize imbalanced relationships patterns where one person assumes a high cost “giver” role and the other a taker ”victim role’. In these relationships the giver or enabler is depleting their own resources trying to fix the other partners problems while the dependent in the relationship often feels guilty and in turn aims too over please.   It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects individuals from being able to have healthy mutually satisfying relationships. Codependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down through generations. Codependency is also known as “relationship addiction” because people who struggle with being codependent often remain in relationships that are destructive, one sided and or abusive. Codependency normally affects family members, spouses, friends, and individuals affected by substance abuse and mental health conditions.

What does Codependent Behavior Look Like?

Those who find themselves in codependent relationships often have low self-esteem and seek constant validation from outside sources. They struggle with authenticity and function in their own personality. To deflect from their own inadequacies, the co-dependent will attempt to take care of a person or other person. The main problem that arises in codependent relationships that that the repeated caretaking and rescuing behavior shown by the enabler allows the needy individual to continue making bad choices and cause destruction leading them to become less stable and more dependent on the caretaking of the enabler.  Although they may have good intentions the caretaking often becomes compulsive, controlling and defeating.

Another tendency of individuals struggling with codependency is to lose and mold their sense of self to fit another person’s needs. A codependent person will plan their life around pleasing another exhibiting a high level of sacrifice of their own needs and emotions.

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Characteristics of Codependent People and Relationships

  • Finding no satisfaction or happiness in life outside of doing things with or for the other person
  • Remaining in the relationship when the other person does and says hurtful things.
  • Constant anxiety and worry about the relationship.
  • Extreme need for approval and recognition
  • Lack of trust in self and others
  • Difficulty identifying feeling.
  • Poor communication skills
  • Feelings of guilt when asking for what they need.
  • Issues with intimacy and setting personal boundaries.
  • Fear of abandonment

Causes of Codependency

As stated by Medical News Today, codependency is a learned behavior that usually stems from past behavioral patterns and emotional difficulties. Codependency can result from a range of different situations and experiences.

Damaging Parental Relationships: people who are codependent in adulthood often had relational issues with their own parents in childhood and adolescence. They may have received messaging that their needs were less important or that they were selfish or greedy by asking for things they wanted. As a result, this child learns to ignore their own needs and continues to search out ways to meet the needs of others at all times. Many times, in situations like these the parent may have struggled with alcohol addiction, drug addiction or mental health problems. Another cause is a parent possessing a lack of emotional development resulting in self-centered behavior in parenting.

Abuse: Any person that has experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is prone to struggling with physiological problems that can have a long-lasting effect. Many issues can arise from past abuse with one of them being codependency. Children and teenagers who have experienced abuse will often express their feelings as a defense mechanism against the pain of abuse. On the other hand, sometimes a person who has been abused will seek out abusive relationships later because they are only familiar with this kind of relationship.

Codependency Treatment

The goal of receiving treatment for Codependency is to learn how to function effectively in a healthy relationship. The first step may be for the people in the codependent relationship to take a step back and take time for separation. Individuals should then try to surround themselves with a support system that is conducive to their growth and recovery. If a person struggling with codependency as well as a substance use disorder seeking help from a provider that treats dial diagnosis is recommended.

Therapeutic Services: Participating in individual and group therapy can be extremely effective in helping individuals take steps towards healing. Marriage and family therapists as well as other addiction treatment professionals can help them to find ways to express their feelings and acknowledge emotions they have been burying for an elongated period. Professionals will work with clients to identify specific patterns of behaviors and build a new set of coping skills and tools to make different choices. Other behavioral therapies such as DBT and CBT can be effective in helping individuals to regain a sense of self reconnect to their value system.  In some cases, doing family therapy sessions or couples counseling for romantic relationships can be helpful in mending and healing family systems.

The Healing: Although it can be scary to open about past trauma and have the courage to make necessary changes, the beauty on the other side of the work is what makes it all worth it. Knowing your worth and being able to have trust and open and honest communication with the others in your life is powerful and something you deserve. Having shared respect and good boundaries with the ones you love and being able to show yourself and others affection without causing harm are the amazing feats of being in healthy relationships.

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If you or anyone you know is dealing with issues around mental health or addiction, contact us for a full evaluation and treatment options.  We understand that it is not a process that any individual should tackle alone, and that is why we have a team of qualified personnel who are available to offer you the help you need.