What is Codependency?
Codependency is a behavioral condition that results in destructive, one-sided relationships. Some people also refer to it as “relationship addiction” and it often moves through the generations of a family. However, unlike substance addictions, codependency does not have a genetic component. It is a learned behavior, resulting from the dynamics of a dysfunctional family with underlying problems such as abuse, addiction, or other mental health conditions. As Mental Health America states, these “[d]ysfunctional 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.” This is the ground from which codependent relationships spring and the cycle continues.
There are usually two sides to a codependent relationship. The first, the manipulator, is the side most of us recovering from addiction identify with at first. Lying, stealing, exploiting the weaknesses of others – we ex-addicts know this behavior all too well. On the other hand, we have the enabler. This person rescues the manipulator from the consequences of their escapades and carries their weight. This prevents the manipulator from developing the competencies needed to function as a productive member of society. While it’s easy to look at this relationship and start to point fingers, the reality is not so simple. Remember that this is learned behavior. The nature of dysfunctional families means that the line between manipulator and enabler is a lot blurrier than some would like to admit. I would like those of you who identified with the manipulator to take a look at the following list.
Signs of Codependency
- Fear of abandonment
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Resistance to change
- Anger issues
- Poor communication skills
- Lack of trust in self or others
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty asserting one’s self
- Exaggerated sense of responsibility
- A dependence on relationships
Build Your Foundation for Success
The above list describes behavior typical of enablers, though I’m betting quite a few of you who identified as manipulator saw aspects of yourself. The web of codependency is often more tangled than it first appears, and it often takes counseling to begin to sort it out. Because codependent behavior begins in the home, family therapy is very effective at getting to the bottom of things. Individual and group counseling, family therapy, and much more are part of Ocean Recovery’s holistic, comprehensive treatment program. If you or someone you love is suffering from a substance abuse disorder, please consider giving Ocean Recovery a call. Our admissions specialists are ready to start helping you build your foundation for success.