Codependency in relationships can be extremely toxic, especially to the individual who is struggling with the codependent issues. Individuals who are codependent tend to make their relationships more important than anything else—including their own well-being. Those on whom the individual is codependent often give very little of themselves, continuing the cycle of codependent behavior. This type of codependency can be extremely harmful to both parties, often more dangerous for the individual struggling with the codependency issues.
What Does Being Codependent Mean?
Many people have heard of codependency and understand that it can be harmful in a relationship. But, what does being codependent mean? Some people interpret codependency as an extreme dependence on someone else, a strong need for the companionship of another. Although this might be part of it, this is not the entire definition of codependency.
Codependency is a mental and emotional problem that affects the way people interact and connect with others. It creates problems in relationships as it causes people to become uncomfortable with themselves. Many codependent people have low self-esteem and struggle to think well of themselves. As a result, they often enter into relationships that are abusive or otherwise unfulfilling.
To be codependent is to rely heavily on someone else. Often, people who are in codependent relationships rely on a partner who actually has an addiction problem. Codependent individuals often have excessive emotional or psychological dependence on their significant other.
Symptoms of Codependency
There are a few key signs of codependency in a relationship that can become negative for a codependent individual. Some of the main symptoms of codependency are:
Fear of true expression – A codependent individual is less likely to voice his or her true feelings for fear of upsetting and/or scaring away his or her significant other. This can cause individuals to bottle up their emotions to the point where they develop serious health problems such as anxiety, depression, or more.
Neglecting personal needs – One of the most common traits of codependency is caring for others while neglecting personal needs. This can include going to extremes to ensure that a significant other is happy, oftentimes at the expense of the codependent individual’s own well-being.
Inability to be alone – Codependency causes people to be unable to be by themselves, as they have a consistent underlying need to care for another being. Being in a relationship also helps individuals to obtain their self-esteem through others. This can lead individuals to develop negative relationships with the wrong kind of people, causing them to suffer from further emotional distress or harm.
Refusing help from others – It is typical for a codependent individual to become excessively uncomfortable when others attempt to do things for him or her. Because they associate themselves with being the caregiver or helper, individuals may find discomfort in others trying to help them, especially for fear that others will grow resentful for being put out to do so.
Being codependent and suffering from codependent relationship symptoms can cause an individual to experience numerous troubles in any (if not all) of their relationships. For example, if a codependent individual gives so much to another person and that person does not return the same sentiment, it can cause the codependent individual to grow extremely upset to the point where he or she becomes seriously depressed.
This type of behavior can also cause an individual to enter into a relationship with someone who is likely to hurt them, as well as cause him or her to lose track of his or her own basic needs. The best way to prevent codependent behavior is to get the proper treatment to develop coping skills strong enough to negate codependency tendencies, all while promoting positive, healthy behaviors that encourage successful relationships.
The Solution for Codependency In Relationships
There are additional symptoms of codependency that fall outside of these four patterns. Many of us may even find that we have a few codependent behaviors. Because codependency is usually rooted in a person from an early age, treatment often involves exploration into early childhood issues and the correlation to current destructive behavior patterns.
Treatment involves education, experiential groups, and individual and group therapy where codependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behavior patterns. Codependency is so damaging because it doesn’t allow healthy relationships to flourish. In order for people to truly give of themselves, their needs must be met as well, which means breaking codependent behaviors.
Sometimes, people who are in codependent relationships suffer from alcoholism and drug abuse. They may do so as a result of the depression and stress they experience because of their unhealthy relationships. Or, their significant other may abuse drugs and alcohol, encouraging the individual to do so, as well.
One of the most important things a person can do in order to end codependency is to enter treatment for addiction. Through a professional rehab program, individuals can end the destructive behaviors that have been a part of their lives for so long.
The following steps can help eliminate codependency:
- Sobriety – Abstinence or sobriety is necessary to recover from codependency. The objective is to take your needs and wants back to yourself – to have an interior as opposed to outside “locus of control.” This simply means that your actions are motivated by your values, needs and feelings, not someone else’s.
- Awareness – Codependents tend to deny their own addiction – they deny their feelings and needs, and are not aware of why is codependency bad. This ends up leading to low self-esteem. To reverse this destructive habit, one must first become aware of them.
- Acceptance – Self-acceptance is an important factor in healing. Before you can change, you have to become aware of and accept the situation. In recovery, you uncover more about yourself, which requires acknowledgment. Life itself presents confinements and misfortunes to acknowledge: this is development. Welcoming reality opens the doors to possibilities, and at this point, change begins to occur.
Northbound Treatment Services incorporates a family program at its state-of-the-art drug and alcohol treatment center to help families learn how to break codependent behaviors. To read more about the program and all of our treatment options, visit our treatment programs page.