What Does Codependent Mean?
Codependency is the act of being entirely reliant on someone. It often occurs in a romantic relationship, with one person in the relationship being so submissive to the other that they let them completely control them, often at the expense of their emotions.
For many years, codependency was not recognized as and illness. Sufferers were merely considered to be weak willed, or said to be the victims of abuse. But we have since developed a better understanding of this condition and now understand that while submissive mentalities and co-occurring mental illnesses can worsen the symptoms and cause more problems, codependent behavior can also occur entirely by itself. This lack of understanding and this refusal to acknowledge that codependency is a condition meant that sufferers didn’t always get the help that they needed.
Thankfully, that is no longer the case. These days, specialists round the country, understand that this is a serious problem and work hard to help those suffering from it.
The Signs Of Codependent Relationships
The main sign of codependency is being stuck in a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship. Your partner may be abusive. They may be addicted to drugs or alcohol. It may simply be that they don’t return the love and affection that you show and yet still dominate the relationship and don’t allow the codependent to have a life.
There are a number of symptoms to look out for if you believe that you may be in a codependent relationship. These include:
- Little to no self-esteem
- Struggling with self-worth and self-confidence
- Constantly trying to please people, whether they are friends or not
- In denial about their situation
- Feeling embarrassed when their children make a mistake
- Over reactive and emotional
- Struggling with intimacy
- Struggling to make decisions/not allowed to make important decisions
- Exaggerated sense of responsibility with regards to other people’s feelings.
Someone who is stuck in a codependent relationship may also be addicted to drugs or alcohol. They may use these substances as a vice, a way to drown out their feelings or to make them feel more confident and less worthless. It may may that they have developed an addiction off the back of their partner’s addiction, doing it either to please them or because they have been forced into it.
Codependency And Addiction
Not only do codependents often find themselves enslaved to a substance abuser, but they may also abuse substances themselves. They may use these substances because they help them to feel better about themselves. They may use them because their partners do and because they have been forced into it.
Whatever the reason for using drugs, codependents tend to be quick to develop addictions. They have very low self-worth and self-respect. As a result, they don’t think twice about using excessive amounts of drugs and don’t stop even when the threat of addiction looms.
Codependent patients may have previously had no interest in drugs, but were talked into it by their abusers and have remained addicted almost as a way of appeasing them.
This dysfunctional, destructive behavior is difficult to diagnose, as the codependent typically puts up a wall when confronted with probing questions. It is also difficult to treat, because the codependent first has to break the cycle and end the relationship before they can consider treating the addiction.
What Causes Codependent Behavior?
Many mental illnesses and disorders don’t have obvious causes. We know that depression is triggered by difficult times and that anxiety is triggered by times of high stress and worry. But we haven’t truly understood what triggers clinical depression or anxiety disorders, nor have we truly grasped illnesses ranging from bipolar disorder and personality disorders, to tic disorders and compulsions.
With codependency there are some similar unanswered questions. However, we have a better understanding of what causes this disorder. As a result, experts and codependency counselors have a better idea of just what history is behind each case of codependency and they can use this to get to the root of the problem.
We know, for instance, that codependency is learned behavior, often coming from parents and/or guardians. In other words, if a parent displays signs of codependency and a child sees those signs, then they may interpret that behavior to be normal and then begin to display it themselves at a later date. If a daughter sees their mother displaying codependent behavior to their father, being completely submissive to their behavior and ignoring the abuse and the negativity, then they may think that this is normal.
So, not only will they later look for a partner who is similar to their father, but when that partner begins to display dominant, abusive behavior, they will likely react to it in a submissive and codependent manner.
Codependency can also be caused by adult trauma. It can be triggered following abusive relationships and can be the result of anxiety disorders, mood disorders and other mental illnesses. If these serve to weaken the patient’s frame of mind when they are in a relationship, and the person in that relationship is abusive to them and displays dominant behavior, then they may develop codependency.
Codependency and Co-Occurring Disorders
As mentioned above, codependency commonly presents alongside substance abuse disorders. However, it’s not the only co-occurring condition that exists with codependency. Codependency counselors work with countless codependent patients that also present with mood disorders, anxiety, depression and other such conditions.
There are many reasons for this. In some cases the codependency has caused the condition. This puts them in a vulnerable state and leaving them exposed. In other cases, the mental illness comes before the codependency and is often the reason for it. Codependency can also lead to addiction which can then lead to other mental health disorders.
In any case, these need to be analyzed, understood, separated and then cured. This should happen along with the codependency. If not the patient may relapse and slip back into the codependent relationship.
Are you stuck in a relationship where you don’t feel loved or appreciated? Do you constantly feel like the relationship is one-sided, that you seem to spend all of your time trying to please others and never devote any time to yourself? This is a condition that presents in a similar way to certain mood disorders and personality disorders. But it one that is unique from both of these and needs to be treated in a very specialized way. Luckily, there are support groups out there that help with this.
Many people search for Codependency Anonymous and other, similar codependency treatment organizations. But while you do need specialized care to help with codependency and addiction, codependency and narcissism, and other co-occurring disorders, it’s often something that a specialist codependent counselor or psychiatrist can help with.
We can’t personally recommend any of these. But if you do your research you can find some very capable ones yourself.
In our codependency definition above we went someway to explaining codependency addiction, codependency and narcism and codependency relationships. But how do you know if you truly fit the bill? After all, one of the main signs of codependency and narcissism is denial. The sufferers don’t want to admit it. If they can’t admit it, there is no hope of breaking codependency and treatment seems like a long way away.
So, to give you an idea, take a look at this codependent quiz. Some of these link to codependency addiction and codependency and narcissism. But all refer to codependent symptoms in general. If you have it, then you will find yourself ticking many of these boxes:
Am I a Codependent Quiz
- Do you lose time from work? Does your social life offer because you are caring for the needs of an addict? (Common in codependency/addiction co-morbid disorders)
- Have your relationships lessened the opinion that others have of you?
- Has your relationship damaged your self-esteem and your reputation?
- Has it damaged your ambition?
- Do you feel embarrassed for your family or loved ones?
- Do you regularly feel unhappy?
- Have you ever sold yourself, or something you love, to help with another’s financial situation?
- Do you suffer severely just to ensure that a loved one doesn’t feel upset in the least bit?
- Do you often stay in relationships until every last morsel of hope has gone? (a clear sign of codependency addiction, hinting that the codependent has a long-term condition and that it is not tied to a single relationship)
- Do you think a relationship is all about you? (more common in codependency narcissism)
- Do certain relationships demand all of your attention?
- Do these relationships cause you to neglect other relationships that once meant a lot to you?
Obviously, there are many codependency relationships. There are many different types of codependent, from codependency addiction to codependency narcissism, and more. But if you find yourself agreeing to make of these then you clearly have an issue that needs to be addressed further.