The Other Side of Addiction: Co-Dependency

When most of us think about addiction, our minds go directly to substance abuse. Dependencies on alcohol, narcotics, or nicotine are three of the most publically recognized addictions in our society, due to the overwhelming number of people dealing with them each day. We are able to see the physical and psychological effects of these addictions in our daily lives, as the people dealing with them present clear signs of abusive behavior. However, there is another kind of addiction that can come from an extended relationship with a substance abusing addict, and that is “relationship addiction” otherwise referred to as Co-Dependency.

Co-dependency can affect anyone: spouses, parents, siblings, and friends –anyone who has experienced a relationship that is rooted in another’s chemical dependency. While originally the term was used to describe individuals who were locked together in similar substance abusing behaviors, now it refers to anyone who places their focus on an addict’s behavior and well-being versus their own. Co-dependents struggle to maintain happy, productive lifestyles due to the constant burden of the relationship status quo, which is one-sided on the side of the dependent. They often feel a loss of identity, as their lives become centered on compulsively serving the addict’s needs.

Co-dependency is a serious condition, which many times goes unrecognized because the individual just assumes his or her behavior to be helpful and assistive, when in reality, the repeated behavior is self-defeating. Prolonged relationships that allow the co-dependent to act as the ”care-taker” of the abuser, isolate the individual into a continuous cycle of dependency, leading to low self-esteem, depression and apathy. Many times, co-dependent individuals will turn to outside stimuli to make themselves feel better, eventually becoming alcohol or drug abusers themselves.

Identifying some of the key behaviors and characteristics of co-dependency can be the first step to getting help. According to the National Health Association, some of the major symptoms are:

  • a compelling need to control others
  • a need for acknowledgment and recognition for self-worth
  • the desire to rescue someone; confusing love with pity
  • an exaggerated sense of responsibility towards others
  • fear of abandonment; controlled by the relationship
  • guilt when acting for themselves
  • difficulty interacting socially with others because of distrust

Co-dependency can affect entire families and can be introduced at any age. If you or someone you know is living with a person with chemical dependency, we can help.

Contact us at Ranch Creek Recovery, by calling our addiction treatment center at (951) 676-9111 for more information.