Bonding and attachment are natural and necessary parts of human relationships. Within healthy boundaries, they help people thrive. When people develop an extreme attachment or dependence on other people in their lives, this might lead to codependency.
In the field of addiction and recovery, the topic of codependency often has to do with the enabling of addiction by family members. Codependency also shows up in relationships that tend to produce mental health risks like dysfunctional family dynamics, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Many people are not aware that codependency may have to do with personality disorders.
What Are the Signs of a Codependent Person?
A codependent person finds it hard to say no or set boundaries in relationships. They may feel the need to be liked by everyone or compelled to take care of others. The other party in the relationship may or may not reciprocate the feelings of dependence. Codependent people often have a low sense of self-worth outside this relationship. Extreme dedication to it may lead to neglect of other responsibilities in life.
Codependent relationships are unhealthy because they do not leave space for wholesome relationship traits to grow and flourish. Both parties usually become too invested in each other to function independently. Codependent people feed off the other person’s neediness and devote all their energy to them. Though being devoted and caring for another person is not a bad thing, it becomes codependency when there are things like constant tension, manipulation, emotional stifling, or even trauma associated with the relationship dynamics on one or both sides. Things can spiral into a cycle of codependency, making intervention very challenging.
The challenge of having a codependent personality is that this condition is not yet considered a diagnosable mental health issue. However, the medical community has increasingly recognized the connection between behavioral patterns of codependency and certain personality disorders.
What Causes Codependency?
Like all psychological traits, a codependent personality disorder can be traced back to childhood experiences. That is when one’s sense of self, independence, and self-worth form, as supported and shaped by family and other significant relationships. Family culture systems have the power to shape people and relationships.
Overprotective parents, for example, tend to create patterns of fear and anxiety early on that feed into a child’s personality. Lack of parental engagement and emotional fulfillment, on the other hand, may disrupt the healthy trajectory of personality development. In some families, codependency has existed for generations and the cycle may seem difficult to break.
Codependency can also come later in life, like if one person in a relationship often takes charge and the other allows them to make many decisions for them.
What Are the Dangers of Being in a Codependent Relationship?
Because of its harmful and lasting effects, codependency has been referred to as “relationship addiction.” The behavior is often subconscious, especially for people who have a codependent personality disorder and define their self-worth through their various relationships statuses.
People with codependent personality disorders tend to directly interfere with their loved one’s emotional health by excessive caretaking and controlling. They may be preoccupied with people and things outside themselves but have difficulty identifying and communicating their internal feelings because of a fear of true expression. The other person’s real needs are often neglected. The obsessive need for approval is compounded by an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the other person.
Codependency may turn people into enablers of their loved one’s bad behaviors. Examples include bailing someone out, repeatedly giving them another chance, ignoring or denying the problem, accepting excuses, feeling they can be the other person’s “savior,” or coming to the rescue of a misbehaving friend or family member.
People with codependent personality disorder may be unable to see the issues within themselves and very seldom fix the problem on their own. Codependency coupled with substance addiction can be particularly complicated because people in a relationship with someone with past or current substance use issues may enable the problem or their behaviors might trigger cravings or relapse.
How Do You Break Codependency?
The first step toward breaking from the cycle of codependency is by gaining awareness of the subconscious motivations. Both parties in the relationship need to work out boundaries so that they can both thrive as independent individuals without stifling one another. For some relationships, this can be a natural learning process, but codependent relationships often need external intervention from experienced mental health experts to identify and remedy these problems.
Evidence-based interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and one-on-one therapy may help treat codependent personality disorder. Recovery from this condition may require a more personalized approach that is determined by relationship dynamics.
People with substance addiction may live with family members who are codependent and enabling. Codependency can bring many adverse outcomes to relationships in general, but especially ones where substance use is or was involved. If you experience codependency in a relationship, you can work with health professionals who are experts in the intersection of addiction recovery and mental health. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists can help you. We understand the complexity of codependence and addiction in the family system. Our evidence-based approaches have helped many clients rebuild their family relationships and social life. We coach them on key relationship skills and integrate this into their relapse prevention plan. Our full medical residential facility offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, and 12-step programs. With the help of the caring staff at Laguna Shores Recovery, you can overcome addiction and codependency. Call us at (866) 906-3203.