Codependency occurs when a person sacrifices their own needs and general wellbeing for someone other than themselves. They gather their sense of self and purpose from the opinions and behaviors of those around them rather than from within. In relation to addiction, people who are in relationships where one or more members are codependent are more likely to see a continuation of the active use and potential suffer further, more severe consequences as a result. It is often the sober person in the relationship, however, who becomes codependent on the addict or alcoholic, as they feel responsible for them. This usually stems from childhood experiences that have shaped the individual into being codependent on another person (the addict/alcoholic in this case).
How Does Codependency Develop?
People don’t just wake up one day and decide that they are going to be codependent on another person. Instead, codependency is something that often develops over time and as a result of problems in childhood. The typical route to codependency begins with a child living in a home where their feelings and emotions are punished, ignored, or diminished. This usually occurs when one or both parents/guardians are struggling with a mental health disorder, addiction, or some other severe life-altering circumstance (such as domestic violence). The children in the home are not taught how to work through their emotions, rather they are instead looked upon to help keep the family unit afloat. How they feel and the experiences they are going through are minimized in comparison to everyone else. So, they may do things such as take care of their parents, cook dinners, help other family members with their homework, and so on. Essentially, they give all of their time and energy to everyone else but themselves while getting the continual message that their feelings have little to no importance. It then becomes learned that in order to have purpose or feel validated in any way, one must give and give to others regardless of how destructive it is to their wellbeing or how poorly they are treated.
Signs of Codependency
Signs of codependency can be seen in the youngest of children and the oldest of adults. It is an issue that has impacted millions of people nationwide and continues to do so. The only real way to overcome the challenges of codependency is through therapeutic work where the codependent can identify the origins of their codependency and work through the behaviors of theirs that followed as a result.
As mentioned before, codependency is a behavioral pattern that is developed in response to childhood. Some of the most common signs of codependency include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Low self-esteem — People who struggle with codependency may go years without realizing that their low self-esteem is linked to their upbringing. Some people may even think that they have a healthy level of self-esteem but actually have little to none. Codependents typically do not feel like they have much worth or that they can offer anything to anyone else by being themselves. Because of low self-esteem, it is common for codependents to end up in relationships where they are required to put out an excessive amount of care but do not get the same in return.
- High sense of responsibility — Being responsible is an excellent trait to have, however codependents often have a distorted perception of what responsibility is supposed to be. They often feel like they need to be the one to “save” everyone else around them. This stems from the blurred lines between parent and child that occurred while in childhood. Rather than allowing someone else to be responsible for themselves, a codependent feels like they have to keep everyone going in the right direction at all times.
- Control issues — People often develop control issues in response to trauma. For example, a child living in a home where they were punished for expressing their feelings is likely to find ways to control as much as possible around them to compensate for the uncontrollable and hurtful events that occur around them. The desire to be in control and remain in control can cause irritability, anxiety, anger, frustration, and emotional outbursts.
- Ignoring their own needs — The internal drive to be everyone’s everything can have codependents regularly ignoring their own needs. They may be tired, hungry, or even sick but still do everything they can for someone else. They may need to be somewhere, run a few errands, or do something around their house but they put it off if the person they are codependent on needs them.
- Problems saying “no” — Lots of people have a hard time saying “no” to others, but codependents can find it impossible to do so. The idea of saying “no” to someone can quickly cause them to spiral out of control with their thoughts, thinking that that person may not like them anymore or that they are mad at them for their response. Even if a codependent wants to say “no”, more often than not they will say “yes” to avoid these thoughts and subsequent feelings.
Being a codependent is often exhausting and draining, but it is rare for the codependent to admit that. If not addressed, codependents can suffer from significant mental and emotional strife, as well as health problems related to the neglect of their needs. Conversely, if the person they are codependent on has an addiction or a mental health problem, their symptoms can become worse and potentially even fatal.
Need Help? Call Genesis House Right Now.
If you or someone you love is struggling, do not hesitate to reach out to Genesis House. We understand the pain that occurs on all sides when codependency is involved. Let us help you overcome the challenges that you are experiencing so that you can live a happy, healthy life free from the confines of codependency.
Do not wait any longer. You deserve the best care possible. Call Genesis House today to learn more about how we can help you.