Co-Dependency

Co-dependency is the term often given to family members of those with addictions if they begin to exhibit similar characteristics to those displayed by their addicted loved one.

The family unit is one that can be described as being similar to a tree, with various branches growing in all directions but all with the same root. The actions of one family member can seriously affect the other members. If one person is diagnosed with a serious illness, such as addiction, it can have a devastating effect on the other members of the family.

Family members react in different ways to one member’s illness. Some will want to do everything they can to help their loved one while others may experience feelings of anxiety, distress and even denial. When the illness is addiction, it can be more complicated. Those with little experience of this illness may blame the addicted person and feel anger towards them. Others will blame themselves and will feel guilty and powerless.

When a family member begins to obsess about their addicted loved one to the point where it takes over his or her life, he or she is described as being co-dependent.

Characteristics of Co-Dependency

A loved one with co-dependency will live his or her life around the needs of the addicted individual. They may change their behaviour to cope with the unpredictability of living with a person who is dependent on a chemical substance. Those with co-dependency may display certain characteristics, which can include:

  • Rationalising – A co-dependent person will explain away their loved one’s problems instead of facing up to the fact that his or her behaviour is getting out of control. The co-dependent person may make excuses for their loved one’s behaviour by saying things such as ‘he or she is under a lot of stress’ or ‘has a lot to deal with’.
  • Covering up – Family members have a tendency to cover up their addicted loved one’s problems. They will immediately try to fix the problem in a bid to cover up their personal feelings of shame, guilt or embarrassment. A co-dependent person may phone their addicted loved one’s place of work if he or she is too drunk or hungover to go in. Or if money is spent on the addiction, the family member will simply go without something else to compensate. Covering up for an addicted loved one can have devastating consequences because the addict is allowed to continue with his or her destructive behaviour. It makes the situation worse for all involved.
  • Withdrawing – Loved ones of addicts often withdraw from social interaction with friends because they are afraid of how their addicted loved one will behave. Children of addicts often stop inviting friends over for fear their addicted parent will embarrass them.
Beyond Addiction

While co-dependency is commonly associated with family members of those with addiction, researchers have found that people can be diagnosed as being co-dependent when they become so obsessed with another person that their own happiness takes a back seat. Co-dependency, therefore, exists beyond addiction and is thought to be a learned behaviour.

In fact, co-dependency is something that many children learn from their parents, and it affects their ability to form healthy relationships with others.

The Co-Dependent Relationship

Those who develop co-dependency are often involved in destructive relationships that can be physically or emotionally abusive. Some co-dependent relationships are a combination of both forms of abuse. In a co-dependent relationship, it is common to see one person becoming obsessed with the care of the other person. They may begin supporting or enabling their partner’s poor mental health or addiction and will make enormous sacrifices for their loved one in order to gain their approval.

Below are a few of the traits that a person with co-dependency typically displays:

  • They tend to put the needs of another person before their own to the detriment of their personal happiness
  • They are manipulative in creating neediness in others
  • They very rarely have any boundaries with the people they are caring for
  • They may exhibit feelings of guilt or suffer from low self-esteem
  • They become obsessive over the lives of other people
  • They will endure abuse if it allows them to continue providing care for another person
  • They have an unnatural desire for others to like, respect or accept them
  • They will claim to be put upon or hard done by while continuing to provide the care they complain about.
Treating Co-dependency

Co-dependency is a mental health disorder but it can be difficult to treat as those affected are rarely able to see any problem with their behaviour. Nonetheless, here at Liberty House Clinic, we have a team of professional counsellors and therapists with the knowledge and experience to deal with patients suffering from co-dependency. We use a range of techniques and approaches including cognitive behavioural therapy, one-to-one counselling, and group therapy sessions.

Our highly qualified staff believe that every patient is different and that those suffering from co-dependency need help to understand that they are valuable as a person and that they do not have to save everyone. They are then taught to recognise the triggers for their maladaptive behaviour and how to change it for more positive behaviours.

If you or someone you love is suffering from co-dependency, contact us here at Liberty House Clinic today for more information on our treatment programme and how we can help you to overcome your problems.

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0203 1310 727
0203 1310 727

0203 1310 727

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