Sometimes called “relationship addiction,” co-dependence is a condition that takes root in dysfunctional relationships. It was first identified in the spouses of alcoholics (termed “co-alcoholics”) but research soon revealed that the condition was much more prevalent throughout the population.
Co-dependency occurs when one person in a dysfunctional relationship takes on responsibility for nearly all of another person’s emotional needs and self-esteem. This may be due to having to care for a sick parent or spouse, but it also arises in families or relationships where one or more persons are suffering from some form of addiction.
Co-dependent individuals put their loved ones’ needs above their own. In doing so, they not only enable the other person’s dysfunction, but also develop their own by losing elements of their own identity. Generally, co-dependents mean well, and act in a supportive manner out of care and concern for their loved one. However, that well-meaning intent can deepen over time into a sense of duty, and can supersede their own emotional development.
Thus, co-dependent individuals have a hard time saying “no,” have low self-esteem and poor boundaries, and generally suffer from intimacy issues, depression, anxiety, and stress. Co-dependency is often developed as a learned behavior by children growing up in families with a parent or parents who are abusive, or suffering from addictions themselves. In these situations, it is not uncommon for the co-dependent individual to also develop substance or behavioral addictions themselves.
Developing over time, co-dependency often accompanies addictions or other mental health disorders. Thus, individuals can benefit from a variety of dual-diagnosis treatment methodologies. However, it is important that treatment of co-dependent individuals extend to family members as well, since it is their dysfunctional behaviors that usually forms the root of their loved one’s disorder.
Children who grow up in co-dependent families will often carry their co-dependence into their own families. They are likely to seek out needy partners without realizing or pursue careers where they can pour their identity into helping or controlling others.
When to Seek Treatment for Co-Dependency
Co-dependency is probably easier to identify in the kind of relationships you seek than it is in the various symptoms that accompany the disorder. However, if you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you should seek professional help regardless.
- If you are in an abusive relationship
- If you have low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy
- If you have difficulty saying “no” when asked to do something
- If you are unable to separate your own feelings from those of a loved one
- If you become overly defensive when someone disagrees with you
- If you get upset or despondent when someone refuses your help
- If you have trouble expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs
- If you suffer from depression, anxiety, or stress
The Next Chapter Approach
Next Chapter takes a highly-personalized approach to treatment for all of our clients, beginning with a thorough psychosocial assessment completed by patient’s therapist and a psychiatric evaluation completed by our medical director. Later in the process we often will include a psychological assessment to aid in the diagnosis of the condition or conditions each client is facing. These initial evaluations are followed up by weekly visits with our medical director and patient’s therapist and supported by our clinical team approach in which each client’s unique needs and treatment are addressed by the entire treatment team. The team meets daily to discuss in detail each of our client’s needs.
Together, our clinical team will prescribe a course of action that may evidence-based treatments practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Solution Focused Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, EMDR and other Trauma focused modalities. Individualized treatment plans also include therapeutic groups, individual sessions, family work, and 12-Step education groups.