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How Co-dependency Can Affect Addicts and their Loved Ones



In this post, we discuss co-dependency. Co-dependent relationships arise between addicts and their loved ones. Here, the loved one will act in a way that enables substance misuse.

Those who experience co-dependency may also enable their loved ones immature, under-achieving and irresponsible behaviour.

Often those who experience co-dependency do so unconsciously. Co-dependency is largely a learned behaviour that passes down from generation to generation. Co-dependant sufferers acquired this trait by imitating their own parent’s behaviour.

Co-dependency is not limited to situations where addiction has arisen. In fact, co-dependency is a common symptom amongst most dysfunctional families, whether an addiction exists or not.

Co-dependency is often termed ‘relationship addiction’ that affects both behaviour and emotions. The main symptom of co-dependency is an unhealthy attachment to another person.

Because of this, the person suffering from co-dependency will constantly seek their loved ones approval and allow their loved one to dictate their sense of identity to them.

It’s also important to point out that co-dependant relationships are often one-sided. The co-dependent person often tolerates and even encourages emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their loved one.

Assessing the symptoms of co-dependency

We shall now discuss the symptoms of co-dependency. Understanding these symptoms will help you assess whether or not you are exhibiting the traits of co-dependency.

There are a vast number of symptoms of co-dependency, and we aim to cover the most common symptoms in this discussion. The symptoms of co-dependency seem to appear in stages. If co-dependency is treated early enough, then it’s likely you will make a full recovery.

Below, we list some of the more common symptoms:

  • Difficulty with intimacy
  • Poor communication
  • Caretaking behaviour
  • Reacting irrationally
  • A need for control
  • Low self-esteem
  • Having poor boundaries
  • A people pleaser

All of the above will serve to lower your sense of self-esteem and cause a painful emotional state. If you suffer from co-dependency, it’s likely that you will feel like a failure. Thankfully, modern forms of therapy are highly effective at treating co-dependency.

Who is most likely to be affected by co-dependency?

Co-dependency may affect all forms of loving relationships, including siblings, parents, spouses, co-workers and friends. Co-dependency is most frequently used to describe the relationship addicts have with their loved ones.

One reason why co-dependency is common amongst addicts and their loved ones is because of the stigma that’s attached to addiction. Loved ones would rather attempt to hide away their loved one’s addiction (thus enabling it) rather than seeking out a solution. Loved ones find themselves supporting their loved one’s addiction, either directly or indirectly.

‘Turning a blind eye’ is perhaps the most common and indirect form of co-dependency that exists today.

Getting treatment for co-dependency

Co-dependency is best treated via family therapy sessions. These sessions may take place at the drug or alcohol rehab clinic where your loved one undergoes addiction treatment.

It’s important to understand that co-dependency is a learned behaviour that’s commonly picked up during childhood. Thus, treatment may incorporate one-to-one counselling by making use of psychotherapy.

To discover a range of inpatient and outpatient treatment options for both addiction and co-dependency, contact our free helpline today on 0800 088 66 86.

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