Codependency – how to get out of it? Symptoms, therapy, test
Codependency is about subordinating your life to someone else’s addiction. You can be co-addicted to alcohol, drugs and other substances and behaviors. Are you codependent? Check where it starts and how to recognize the symptoms?
What is Codependency?
In the modern world, many people lead a daily lifestyle that exposes them to stress and constant fatigue. The crazy pace, the multitude of duties and social pressure make some people mentally unstable and look for “help” in alcohol, drugs or gambling.
Psychoactive substances temporarily improve the mood, allow you to calm down or relax, but the road to addiction turns out to be simple and short … And it should be remembered that addiction is not only a burden for the person who fell into it, but also for their close environment.
In the 1980s, the American psychiatrist Timmen Cermak popularized the definition of codependency as a mental disorder. What does it mean to be codependent? What is Codependency?
It is commonly referred to as “the disease of alcoholics’ wives”, although this is a gross simplification, because the problem can affect women and men who are in different relationships with a person affected by addiction.
It does not necessarily have to be alcoholism, drug addiction, addiction to gambling, drugs or other substances or behaviors are also involved.
There are various concepts that recognize codependency as a personality disorder, disease, or stress response.
Codependency on alcohol. Why does it happen most often?
One of the most common addictions is alcoholism. Perhaps it is related to the wide availability of high-proof drinks. They’re legal, so they’re easier to get than drugs; you don’t need a prescription for them, so they’re easier to buy than narcotic drugs. For some they have a stimulating effect, for others it is relaxing and calming.
Co-dependence with alcoholism is also common. In alcoholic families, dysfunctions appear affecting all its members – spouses, parents and children of alcoholics (both minors and ACoAs).
What is alcohol codependency? What is it and what can it lead to? Simply put, it is a phenomenon of taking over the behavior of a person affected by addiction by their relatives. These relatives often blame themselves for the alcoholism of their husband/wife/child, look for excuses to explain drinking, hide the addiction from extended family, neighbors and friends.
Co-dependence on an alcoholic husband, son or mother is very dangerous and leads to anxiety, depression and emotional instability. The phases of these disorders occur with different intensity, but they include:
- looking for reasons for drinking,
- hiding the problem and disagreeing with the breakdown of the family,
- continuous control of the alcoholic’s behavior,
- coming to terms with helplessness.
Co-dependence of a child in a family with an alcohol problem can lead to disorders of emotional development, which sometimes affects the whole adult life. Therefore, this phenomenon must not be underestimated, it is best to seek professional psychological help to minimize its effects.
Codependency in a toxic relationship. Which means?
There are relationships that – even if there is no addiction problem – are toxic and partners are emotionally codependent. What does it mean and what is partner addiction?
These are situations in which one person in a relationship uses the other, requires constant support from them, burdens them with responsibilities, without giving anything in return.
A feature of a toxic person is also isolating the partner from his environment – family, friends, acquaintances. Victims of such relationships often do not work, and their partner and common home are the whole world to them.
In toxic relationships, co-dependence on alcohol also occurs, with the care of the subordinate partner taking the form of total dedication, ignoring one’s own needs and uncontrollable emotions.
Why are toxic people addictive? Because they are great manipulators, and at the same time they have leadership qualities and the ability to discredit others. Their victims have very low self-esteem and live in the belief that they cannot cope without their tormentor.
Who is affected by drug codependency?
When it comes to drugs, the problem is more often related to parents than in the case of alcohol. Co-dependence in drug addiction works similarly to alcoholism and has several characteristics:
- concentration of thoughts and emotions around the addicted person,
- hiding and justifying addiction from outsiders,
- trying to fight a loved one’s addiction,
- blaming himself for his problems.
Co-dependence on drugs – marijuana or stronger narcotics – is dangerous in its consequences, because it actually harms both the addict and his entire environment.
Codependent people seem to be guided by good intentions, but in fact they make it difficult to fight addiction.
co-dependence on another person can occur on various levels – not only in the immediate family, but also, for example, among friends from work, between the subordinate and the boss, etc.
It is very difficult to get out of it, especially if it lasts for years. In the case of spouses, sometimes it does not end even after divorce.
Causes of Codependency. What to look for?
Co-dependence most often takes place in a partnership or marriage, because in this case the phenomenon of domination of one person over the other most often occurs.
Where does it come from and what are its most common substrates? Pia Mellody – an authority in the field of addiction, author of many books on toxic relationships – points to growing up in a dysfunctional family as an important factor that increases the risk of falling into the trap of codependency.
Codependency symptoms. How to recognize them?
There is a very thin line between caring for an addict and codependency. So how do you recognize codependency?
What mechanisms of behavior and characteristics of the relationship indicate that a disorder has occurred? The American psychologist Janet Woititz lists the characteristic symptoms of alcohol codependency:
- full concentration on the alcoholic,
- feeling guilty about drinking it
- self-deception and false hopes,
- feeling of helplessness,
- mood swings – from lethargy to euphoria.
The symptoms of alcohol or drug codependency usually begin with denial. “It’s only two glasses a day, nothing happens…”, “You just have a joint now and then…”. These kinds of statements are often heard from codependent people. Then there are deceptions, hiding the addiction, and finally – a sense of hopelessness and depression.
Is there a codependency test?
If there is an addict in your family, you may be a victim of codependency. Early diagnosis of the problem can, however, prevent the disorder from deepening and facilitate its possible treatment. Many psychologists have appropriate tests for codependency that accurately and quickly help to recognize the symptoms.
Such tests usually consist of answering several dozen questions about family relationships, behavior patterns of its individual members, and their character traits. As a rule, they also include questions about the current mood, its fluctuations, fears, but also reactions in specific situations.
In addition to tests for co-dependence on alcohol and other psychoactive substances, a test for a toxic relationship or emotional dependence on another person (e.g. a parent) can be performed.
Various tests of this kind can be found on the Internet, on websites dealing with addiction prevention, diagnosis and treatment. It is worth taking an online test after observing the first symptoms, even before going to a psychologist or other specialist.
Is codependency therapy effective?
What is codependency therapy? Most often it is psychotherapy consisting of meetings with a specialist, conversations with him, appropriate exercises. Sometimes a form of therapy are support group meetings, where patients can exchange experiences and give each other valuable advice on how to deal with a loved one who has fallen into addiction.
Emotional codependence therapy can involve one of the unconstrained people or both if they want to participate in treatment together. Nowadays, when many spheres of life have moved to the virtual space as a result of the pandemic, you can participate in online therapy.
A face-to-face conversation with a specialist can be more honest and emotional, and thus more effective, but if the patient for some reason has limited ability to leave the house or is resistant to face-to-face conversation, he or she should use this form of help .
Many codependency therapy strategies consist of several stages, the first of which is usually making the patient aware of the problem. It is also worth remembering that such therapy should take place independently of the addiction treatment of a loved one.
How to get out of codependency?
Co-dependence often ruins the life of the whole family, leads to its breakdown and has a negative impact on the emotional development of children growing up in it. How to help yourself and loved ones who also need support in a difficult situation? How to heal from codependency and overcome an unhealthy relationship?
As already mentioned, treatment usually involves many stages. At the beginning, the most important thing is to become aware of your own problem and that of a loved one who has fallen into addiction. No more excuses, explanations and justifications for an alcoholic, drug addict or gambler is an extremely important step. Only later can the therapist recommend various exercises to help the patient cope with difficult situations he encounters on a daily basis.
Does the end of codependency have to mean the end of the relationship with the addicted person? Treatment regimens and their effectiveness may vary depending on the emotional attitude of the treated people or the depth of codependency.
It is worth emphasizing, however, that the treatment of co-dependence on alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, etc. must be carried out independently of the treatment of the addiction itself.
Codependency – where to look for help?
If you notice any signs of codependency, seek professional help in the treatment center. Professional support is very important with this type of disorder, and attempts to cope on one’s own often fail.
There are many clinics where alcohol addiction and co-dependency therapies are conducted, so it is best to run them simultaneously, because such a double-edged weapon is the most effective in fighting addiction and its impact on loved ones.
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