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Codependency Addiction: Disease Stages and Recovery

Codependency happens when one person engages in unhealthy behavior and another person enables those habits. Researchers have found multiple links between codependency and addiction, as one or both people in a codependent relationship might fall into substance abuse. In many situations, somebody might find themselves falling into a codependent relationship without realizing it. Only when one or both people in a relationship view it in context they can recognize the codependent nature of the situation and take steps to fix the problem.

Is Codependency an Addiction?

While codependency and alcohol addiction often have causal links, many people classify codependence itself as an addition. Psychiatrists describe codependency as a disease of lost self—you simply put so much of yourself into your relationship with another person that you feel as though the relationship defines you. This phenomenon has identifiable symptoms and treatments, so in that regard codependency and drug addiction are very similar. In many cases, both individuals in a relationship exhibit codependent behavior. In many other cases, this disease leads to other harmful behaviors, so a pair of people might get into hard drugs and find themselves both addicted and codependent.

What are the Signs of a Codependent Person?

One of the reasons that some people fail to recognize the link between addiction and codependent behavior is that many dismiss codependence as simply an aspect of a deep emotional relationship. In reality, you can have a healthy emotional connection to another person without veering into codependency. Addictive thinking and codependency are closely tied together, and many of the hallmarks of addiction can also show up in a codependent relationship. This includes a lack of motivation to act on one’s own, jeopardizing work or personal relationships due to codependence, and making harmful long-term life choices. Signs of codependency include the following:

  • A lack of agency, in which one person relies on the other to make decisions in a relationship.
  • A lack of communication in a relationship, or an unwillingness to assert one’s own desires.
  • Poor self-esteem and a lack of trust in one’s own abilities.
  • Complete financial reliance on the other person in the relationship.
  • Fears of abandonment and an obsessive need for approval from one person.

How Do I Fix Codependency?

If you realize that a friend or loved one is suffering from codependency, you should approach the situation in the same way that you approach any other addiction—by consulting with a professional and possibly staging an intervention. Alcohol addiction and codependency share similar symptoms, and they also share similar solutions. If you can get the person to recognize that they are suffering from codependency, they can begin solving the problem. If you fear that there might be physical or emotional abuse in the codependent relationship, however, you may need to consult with authorities to intervene.

If you have identified yourself as a sufferer of codependency, much of the same advice remains true. It helps to consult with a professional as soon as possible. You can also inform yourself by reading codependency and addiction books. This allows you to identify your symptoms and determine how the problem of codependency applies to your situation. Trying to get help on your own while you suffer from codependency can be extremely difficult. Be sure to reach out to others, including people your trust outside of your immediate relationship and professional counselors or therapists, to help you break out of a bad situation.

What Causes a Codependent Personality?

Codependency can take root in many different ways, but most psychiatrists believe that a codependent personality starts forming during childhood. Children who grow up in abusive homes are more likely to suffer from codependency than those who enjoy a supportive childhood environment. Children who feel the sting of emotional neglect or whose parents actively shame them over their behavior can develop codependent traits later in life. Households that deal with addiction, substance abuse, or domestic violence are more likely to give rise to codependent children.

A codependent personality can also form when a child takes on too much responsibility. If one or more parents aren’t able to fill traditional guardian roles, a child might step up to care for the family. This could take the form of learning how to cook so the family doesn’t go hungry or an older sibling becoming a parental figure to younger brothers and sisters. The blurring of the line between child and adult often leads to divergent emotional growth, which can lead to problems later in life. In the end, codependency takes shape when a person lacks a feeling of stability and control.

Is Codependency an Illness?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, codependency is not classified as a mental illness. That doesn’t mean that a person who suffers from codependency issues cannot receive treatment, however. Codependency can be treated in much the same way as addiction, and most medical professionals have accepted such treatment as the best way to help somebody in a codependent relationship. True recovery from this situation often requires the help of a professional who can take a holistic view of the situation. There is no one magic cure for codependency; a person must overcome many adverse situations and learn to reshape their views of the self in order to truly recover.

Codependency and Addiction

Being codependent doesn’t mean that you will suffer from addiction to alcohol or drugs, but there is a notable connection between codependence and addiction. People who suffer from codependency often seek refuge in foreign substances; especially if they do not get the emotional support they need from a friend or loved one. If a person is in a codependent relationship with somebody who abuses alcohol or drugs, that individual is more likely to experiment and possibly abuse those substances as well. This makes the risk of addiction even more significant to a person already suffering from codependency. Oftentimes, it becomes necessary to treat the individual not only for their codependent addiction, but also for a substance addiction.

Codependency is a real problem, and it is something that professionals treat in the same manner as addiction. You can be in a codependent relationship without realizing it, and you can suffer from additional addictions while in that relationship. It therefore becomes extremely important to seek out help if you find yourself in such a relationship. Similarly, if you feel that a friend or loved one is suffering from codependence, you should seek out the help of a professional to help that person break out of a spiral which may prove destructive not only to themselves but also the people around them.

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