The Drug Class Blog

Dec 08

More On Codependency

Yesterday I gave you the opportunity to take a test on codependency,  here is some more info on that issue to help you better understand what its all about.

What is it

Codependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Codependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior. Who Does Codependency Affect? Codependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, codependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any codependent person from any dysfunctional family. What is a Dysfunctional Family and How Does it Lead to Codependency? A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following: An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling. The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness. Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become “survivors.” They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited Attention and energy focus on the family member who is ill or addicted. The codependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of a person who is sick. When codependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self. Codependent Behaviors? Codependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine - and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity. They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the care taking becomes compulsive and defeating. Codependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “helpers” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior. The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy care taking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the codependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the care taking becomes compulsive, the codependent feels ‘choice less’ and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Codependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.

Characteristics of Codependent People Are: An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The codependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment An extreme need for approval and recognition A sense of guilt when asserting themselves A compelling need to control others Lack of trust in self and/or others Fear of being abandoned or alone Difficulty identifying feelings Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change Problems with intimacy/boundaries Chronic anger Lying/dishonesty Poor communications Difficulty making decisions

What to Do

Like any other problem this is something that we need help to fix, and the help needs to be at several levels, social, emotional, spiritual and physical.  It also isn't fixed overnight.  The person who has been the focus of the codependent will offer resistance to any change, but in order to help them the codependent person must do some changing first.  The simple solution is to stop enabling the individual and to allow them to feel the consequences of their action or inaction.  The hard part is how to get the strength and courage to do that.

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