. . .
Co-dependency is a learned behavior that is often
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 co dependency often
form or maintain relationships that are one-sided,
emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder
was first identified as the result of years of studying
interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics.
Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and
imitating other family members who display this
type of behavior.
Who Does Co-dependency Affect?
Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent,
sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted
with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, co-dependent
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 co-dependent
person from any dysfunctional family.
What is a Dysfunctional Family and How Does
it Lead to Co-dependency?
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 . . .
addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol,
relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
existence of physical, emotional, or sexual
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 co-dependent person
typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care
of a person who is sick. When co-dependents place
other people's health, welfare and safety before
their own, they can lose contact with their own
needs, desires, and sense of self.
How Do Co-dependent People Behave?
Co-dependents 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
They have good intentions. They try to take care
of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but
the care-taking becomes compulsive and defeating.
Co-dependents often take on a martyr's role and
become "benefactors" 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 co-dependent develops a
sense of reward and satisfaction from "being needed."
When the care-taking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent
feels choice-less and helpless in the relationship,
but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior
that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as
victims and are attracted to that same weakness
in the love and friendship relationships.
Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are
. . .
exaggerated sense of responsibility for the
actions of others.
tendency to confuse love and pity, with the
tendency to love people they can pity
tendency to do more than their share, all of
tendency to become hurt when people don't recognize
unhealthy dependence on relationships - the
co-dependent will do anything to hold on to
a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment.
extreme need for approval and recognition.
sense of guilt when asserting themselves.
compelling need to control others.
of trust in self and/or others.
of being abandoned or alone.
adjusting to change.
Questionnaire To Identify Signs Of Co-dependency
. . .
This condition appears to run in different degrees,
whereby the intensity of symptoms are on a spectrum
of severity, as opposed to an all or nothing scale.
Please note that only a qualified professional can
make a diagnosis of co-dependency; not everyone
experiencing these symptoms suffers from co-dependency
. . .
you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
you always worried about others' opinions of
you ever lived with someone with an alcohol
or drug problem?
you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles
the opinions of others more important than your
you have difficulty adjusting to changes at
work or home?
you feel rejected when significant others spend
time with friends?
you doubt your ability to be who you want to
you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings
you ever felt inadequate?
you feel like a "bad person" when you make a
you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
you feel humiliation when your child or spouse
makes a mistake?
you think people in your life would go downhill
without your constant efforts?
you frequently wish someone could help you get
you have difficulty talking to people in authority,
such as the police or your boss?
you confused about who you are or where you
are going with your life?
you have trouble saying "no" when asked for
you have trouble asking for help?
you have so many things going at once that you
can't do justice to any of them?
If you identify with several of these symptoms and
are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships,
you may want to consider seeking my help. I can
make an evaluation; and if indicated, a program
of treatment can be commenced.
How is Co-dependency Treated?
Because co-dependency is usually rooted in a person's
childhood, treatment often involves exploration
into early childhood issues and their relationship
to current destructive behavior patterns. Treatment
includes education and individual therapy - through
which, co-dependents rediscover themselves and identify
self-defeating behavior patterns. Treatment also
focuses on helping clients to get in touch with
feelings that have been buried during childhood
and on reconstructing family dynamics.
goal is to allow the client to experience his or
her full range of feelings again. When Co-dependency
hits home, the first step in changing unhealthy
behavior is to recognize it. It is important for
co-dependents and their family members to become
aware of the cycle of addiction and how it extends
into their relationships. A lot of change and growth
is necessary for the co-dependent and his or her
family. Any care-taking behavior that allows or
enables abuse to continue in the family needs to
be recognized and stopped. The co-dependent must
learn to identify and embrace his or her feelings
and needs. This may include learning to say "no"
- to be loving yet tough, and learning to be self-reliant.
People find freedom, love, and serenity in their
recovery. Hope lies in learning to cope with its
effects and to break the old patterns of behavior.
I look forward to working with you.