What is codependency and are you guilty of it?

by | Feb 15, 2012

You love your spouse; he?s handsome, friendly, outgoing. Sure, he has some issues but that?s why you love him so much. He NEEDS you to help him get through his problems; he really needs you. And that?s what love is, isn?t it? Admittedly he can get aggressive sometimes and he drinks more than is good for him. But it?s good to be wanted to so much?isn?t it? Not necessarily. You could be a co-dependent in an emotionally destructive relationship.

The definition of codependency
According to Mental Health America, ?Codependency is a learned behavior that can be 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 codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.?

How do you know if you are a codependent? 
There are many warning signs that you may be exhibiting codependency behavior, listed below are some of the key ones. You are likely to display:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love with pity, wanting to ?rescue? the other from their problems
  • A tendency to do more than your share in a relationship
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships and a fear of abandonment
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting yourself
  • A lack of trust in yourself and/or others

If you identify with several of these symptoms, are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships then you should consider seeking professional help. Remember only a qualified professional can diagnose a codependency issue therefore you should arrange for a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or psychologist experienced in treating codependency.

How is Codependency Treated?
Codependency is not something that can be overcome by willpower alone, the sufferer needs professional help to ensure that the behavior is changed. Because codependency 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 can include education, attendance at individual and group therapy through which co-dependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behavior patterns.
A lot of change and growth is necessary for the co-dependent and his or her family. Any caretaking behavior that allows or enables abuse to continue in the family needs to be recognized and stopped. The codependent must 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.

Codependency?the positive viewpoint
However, caring for an individual with a physical addiction is not necessarily synonymous with pathology. To name the caregiver of an alcoholic as a co-dependent or indeed a co-alcoholic responsible for the endurance of their partner’s alcoholism for example, pathologizes caring behavior. The caregiver may only require assertiveness skills and the ability to place responsibility for the addiction on the addict. Some medical professionals believe that codependency is not a negative trait, and does not need to be treated; that rather than codependency it is just a healthy personality trait has been taken to excess.

Remember, you are not alone

There is so much information and assistance out there for those suffering from codependency; all you need is to gain the knowledge of that information and the strength to ask for help. And of course, the more you understand codependency and how it affects you, and your relationships with your family and friends, the more you can cope with its effects.


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