Codependency is a treatable condition that usually presents itself in the form of unhealthy relationships with others. Some people describe the codependent person as being addicted to another human being. A person suffering from codependency does not know how to effectively separate themselves from others by establishing healthy boundaries. Often times a person is considered codependent when they are enabling an addict/alcoholic spouse or family member. That’s why the term is frequently heard in and out of the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Codependency often stems from childhood experiences. Children of families with a history of enmeshment between members, trouble validating individual feelings, and minimal respect of privacy often become codependent adults. Victims of physical, verbal and sexual abuse commonly carry shame with them into their adult lives. Living with such little self-worth and shame contributes to their codependent tendencies.
Treatment programs for codependent adults are widely available. Many people start small by buying a self-help book on codependency and seeing if they identify with some of the marking features. Others talk to a therapist or counselor about their issues with relationships and desire to establish healthy boundaries. In many cases, the person will attend a codependency treatment center program, usually 30 days or more, in which they will learn about how to change their codependent behaviors and replace them with healthy behaviors. Inpatient treatment centers use a combination of group therapy sessions, one-on-one therapy and other techniques to help clients succeed in life. If an intervention is conducted on a codependent person’s family member for alcoholism, for example, the interventionist may simultaneously recommend the codependent family member attend Al-Anon meetings, work their own 12-step program, and/or attend a 30-day codependency clinic.
If you suspect a loved one is codependent on another family member, you are probably right. If your brother is an active alcoholic and your mom continues to engage with him despite his repeated patterns of lashing out at her, she is acting in a codependent fashion. If your brother asks her for money on a weekly basis and she continues to provide funds for him, despite the fact that they both know he will spend the money on liquor, this is another red flag. Symptoms of codependency include but are not limited to:
* Perfectionism – in themselves, and perfectionist expectations in others
* Resistance of intimacy
* The inability to validate his/her own feelings
* Always taking care of someone else’s needs first
* Exhibiting controlling behavior
* Trouble identifying rules and roles in the home and workplace
* Pushing and pulling away from and toward conflict
* Consistently engaging in dysfunctional romantic relationships
Exemplifying symptoms above indicates a treatment modality should be sought to treat the codependency. Sometimes a person is codependent and does not realize it. Other times the person stays in a state of denial about his/her codependency despite gestures from therapists, friends and family members to the contrary.
Robert Subby summarizes codependency best. He has written and lectured extensively on mental health and addiction and observes that “Codependency is an emotional, behavioral, and psychological pattern of coping which develops as a result of prolonged exposure to and practice of a dysfunctional set of family rules. In turn, these rules make difficult or impossible the open expression of thoughts and feelings. Normal identity development is thereby interrupted; codependency is the reflection of a delayed identity development.” In order to make healthy changes for yourself, one must be ready to take action against his/her current behaviors. In addition, the person will need a strong support system in which many different people, well-read on codependency, make themselves available as points of contact to the codependent person.
Robert Subby believes that “long-term remediation of codependency requires the identification of dysfunctional coping strategies that have persisted from childhood, as well as the recognition and acceptance of healthier choices. Support groups, such as Alanon, and Codependents, are effective resources for addressing codependency, as is psychotherapy. Some excellent books on codependency are available as well, including Codependent No More by Melody Beatty.” There are different avenues to take when overcoming codependency and the appropriate treatment modality depends on the individual circumstances at hand.
To locate a codependency treatment center please call (866) 666-3711.