What is Codependency?
The traditional definition of codependency has focused on control, nurturing, and maintenance of relationships with individuals who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, or engaging in undesirable behaviours, such as gambling. the textbook definition of the codependency model is an alcoholic husband and his enabling wife.
Most professionals in the field of family therapy work from the premise that codependent individuals often share the responsibility for the unhealthy behaviour, primarily by focusing their efforts in life on fixing the "bad" behaviour and by making their own self-esteem and well-being contingent on the behaviour of the unhealthy family member.
This behaviour is a coping mechanism for unpleasant emotions, that is addictive in its own ways, and it is often almost as difficult to break as the behaviours associated with the addiction itself. It is important to remember that it takes two to tango, and the dependent or subservient partner may not be as weak, passive, or innocent as they appear.
Unfortunately, lots of people have a negative perspective when it comes to the term codependency, picturing a partner broken and beaten down by years of emotional and physical abuse. However, codependent people more often than not don't even realize they are experiencing the symptoms of the problem, as they have "normalized" their behaviour to the point of an unhealthy justification.
A failure to seek help and support for the symptoms and behaviours associated with codependency can lead to serious ailments for those involved, including chronic social anxiety and stress-related disorders such as depression and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Psychological issues are not the only problems resulting from codependent behaviours. Prolonged exposure to the stress associated with this serious affliction can lead to physical ramifications such ulcers, high blood pressure, headaches, respiratory issues and heart problems.
Caregiver burnout is a common place for the family members and friends of those dealing with the symptoms of addiction and mental health to find themselves in. This is usually, but not always, experienced in symptoms such as a lack of energy, anger, depression, anxiety and a general apathy about life itself. Caregivers often feel guilty if they spend time on themselves instead of their loved ones, usually as a result of the unrealistic demands they place on themselves and the other people in their environment.
The term "self-care" is often thrown around as a major part of treatment planning for those dealing with codependent behaviours, and it is important to develop a good practice in this area in order to ensure your own personal batteries don't run down to the point of exhaustion. However, codependency more often than not runs much deeper than simply taking a bath or going to the movies every now and then.
When embarking on a journey into recovery, many people find that codependent issues stem from childhood experiences of neglect and unmet emotional needs. This can often be difficult for the individual to work through as it can create a form of developmental trauma or complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and takes significant individual and group therapy to develop a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
The following questions can serve as a guide to determine if your relationship involves codependency:
- Does your sense of purpose involve making extreme sacrifices to satisfy the needs of others?
- Is it difficult to say no when others make demands on your time and energy?
- Do you cover up other people’s problems with drugs, alcohol, or the law?
- Do you constantly worry about others’ opinions of you or your loved one?
- Do you feel trapped in your current life?
- Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments and sacrifice your own personal boundaries?
If this sounds familiar to you and your behaviours, or those of a loved one you are concerned about, and you would like to make some changes in your behaviours related to the possibility of codependency in your life, take a look at the information contained in our website, along with the external resources related to the subject that we offer here at The Liberation Place. If it's time to make a change and reach out for the support, recovery is a journey that starts with just one step, and only you alone can choose to take that step, but remember you are not destined to be alone when you choose to take that step with The Liberation Place!