Co-dependency is a term that has been used for a number of years and which was first applied to those in relationships with alcoholics. Researchers found that spouses and partners of alcoholics tended to display similar traits whereby they would become obsessed with taking care of their alcoholic loved one to the detriment of their own happiness or wellbeing.

However, after many years of research, it has been found that co-dependency is a condition that not only relates to the spouses and partners of alcoholics, but it can also be applied to anyone who becomes obsessed with the care of another person and who sacrifices their health or well-being in doing so. It is believed that co-dependency is a learned behaviour that is prevalent in many families and it can actually be passed from one generation to the next. This condition affects a person’s ability to form a healthy relationship with others and it has often been referred to as ‘people addiction’ or ‘relationship addiction’.

Characteristics of a Co-Dependent Relationship

Researchers have found that individuals with co-dependency tend to develop destructive relationships that can often be abusive in both a physical and emotional sense. In a co-dependent relationship, one person will become obsessed with the other. They may begin to enable or support a loved one’s addiction, immaturity, or poor mental health. Making extreme sacrifices to satisfy a loved one and gain their approval is another common trait of a co-dependent relationship.

It is tough for those suffering from co-dependency to notice it in themselves. They are often in denial and, therefore, do not seek help. Unfortunately, the symptoms of co-dependency tend to get worse unless they are treated. The good news is that Recovery Lighthouse provides services for those who are affected by co-dependency. We understand that this is a disorder that requires immediate treatment, and we are here to help you overcome this condition.

Who is Affected by Co-Dependency?

Co-dependency can affect anyone. It is often a side effect of one person’s addiction, be that to a particular substance or activity. Spouses, parents, friends, siblings and even colleagues can be affected when someone they know develops an addiction. They will become unnaturally obsessed with their addicted loved one and to provide every aspect of care for them, even if this means their happiness or health is affected. It is also common among loved ones of those suffering mental health problems.

Dysfunctional Families

Children from dysfunctional families often go on to become involved in co-dependent relationships when they become older. Children from parents who were neglectful or who emotionally abused them often learn to put their own needs second to please their parent. They then take this attitude into relationships when they are adults.

Dysfunctional families are often found when addiction affects one individual or when emotional, physical or sexual abuse is present. Chronic physical or mental illness is also an underlying factor in many of these families. In a dysfunctional family, at least one member will suffer from pain, anger, fear or shame that is ignored.

In a dysfunctional family, problems are ignored and they are never spoken of. This means that family members must learn how to put their needs second and repress their feelings. They do not talk to others and they do not touch others. They must learn how to detach themselves from everything but the family member who is addicted or ill.

Signs of Co-Dependency

There are many signs that can indicate co-dependency; below are a few examples:

  • being sensitive to criticism
  • being overly attentive to another person’s needs
  • denying that any personal problems exist
  • being uncomfortable with attention from others
  • having very low self-esteem
  • being reluctant to share feelings with others
  • feeling guilty about a loved one’s suffering
  • being unable to meet personal needs because of spending so much time on others
  • feeling a need to control others
  • basing your self-worth on your caregiving
  • making excuses for a loved one with an addiction.

Although co-dependent individuals choose to give care to another person, they may label that person as being needy and could complain about being trapped. Those with co-dependency often suffer from anxiety and depression and may even develop addictions to substances such as drugs or alcohol.

It is important that co-dependency is treated as soon as possible; Recovery Lighthouse has the tools necessary to help you recover.

Do You Have Co-Dependency?

If you are worried that you may have developed co-dependency, there are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Are you concerned about what others think of you?
  • Do you stay quiet to avoid getting into an argument?
  • Do you live with someone who abuses or belittles you?
  • Do you live with someone who suffers from substance addiction?
  • Do you value the opinion of others over your opinions?
  • Do you find it difficult to share your feelings with others?
  • Do you find it difficult to adjust to changes at home or in work?
  • Do you often feel inadequate?
  • Do you feel rejected when loved ones spend time with others?
  • Do you find it difficult to accept compliments?
  • Do you feel embarrassed when a loved one makes mistakes?
  • Do you feel bad when you make a mistake?
  • Do you think your loved ones are not capable of looking after themselves?
  • Do you find it hard to say no to others?

If you find that you have answered ‘yes’ to many of the above, you should consider the possibility that you are co-dependent and that you need help. Contact Recovery Lighthouse to speak to one of our qualified counsellors for advice and support on this issue.

Treating Co-Dependency

Co-dependency can be treated, but it is often a long process. The condition is often deeply rooted in an individual and has usually been present since childhood. It is necessary for therapists to identify the cause of the co-dependent behaviour and deal with that first. Patients must be taught how to recognise triggers and learn how to avoid them.

Treatment options usually include both individual and group therapy sessions as well as educating the patient on how to love the person they are. The patient must learn how to change their unhealthy behaviour and embrace his or her own needs. They often need to learn how to say ‘no’ to others.

This level of treatment requires professional counsellors and therapists with experience in this area. At Recovery Lighthouse, we have a team of experienced professionals ready to help those suffering from co-dependency. If you or a loved one needs help in this area, we urge you to get in touch with us today.

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