Codependency and addiction

When your happiness and mental well-being are entirely bound to another person, it creates a challenging dynamic known as codependency. The challenge of dealing with codependency is substantial, but when addiction enters the picture, it can amplify the struggles, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of reliance. The intertwined nature of codependency and addiction can seem like an insurmountable hurdle, but there’s a way out. Oasis Runcorn is here to assist you on your journey towards recovery, facilitating the beginning of an entirely new chapter in your life.

Codependency meaning explained

Codependency refers to a complicated pattern of reliant behaviour. It is often seen in relationships where one person is dealing with addiction or other mental health issues, and the other person assumes the role of an enabler or caregiver.

Codependency was first categorised in the 1970s by psychologists studying families of people struggling with alcohol addiction. They observed that family members tended to follow the same behaviour patterns, like always putting the needs of the person with the addiction before their own or taking on the role of caregiver both to the person and the rest of the family.

Codependency can greatly affect a person’s life. It often leads to unhealthy balances in relationships and the person in the caregiver role feeling out of touch with themselves. It’s hard to tell exactly how common codependency is since it’s not officially listed as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, there are many people who show some signs of behaving in a codependent manner, particularly in families where addiction is present.

What causes codependency?

Codependency often starts with how a person was brought up. In families where a parent has addiction or mental health issues, a child might learn to focus more on the parent’s needs than their own. They become helpers or caretakers early on, setting the pattern for future relationships.

Growing up in a chaotic, unstable or neglectful environment can also make a person more likely to develop codependent behaviour. These people sometimes think they need to control situations or other people to feel secure and tend to develop strong emotional bonds and overinvestment in the problems of others.

The symptoms of codependency

Codependency symptoms can vary for different people, but some common symptoms include:

  • Having low self-esteem or feeling worthless without approval from others.
  • Finding it hard to set boundaries in relationships or feeling guilty when doing so.
  • Having a strong need for control, especially in relationships or situations that seem chaotic.
  • Dependence on others for personal identity and self-worth.
  • Neglecting personal needs or well-being to help others.
  • Feeling responsible for others’ feelings, behaviours or problems.
  • Having a fear of abandonment and staying in unhealthy situations to avoid feeling abandoned.
  • Difficulty communicating openly and honestly about personal needs or feelings.
  • A tendency to constantly worry about others and their problems.

Dual diagnosis codependency and addiction

Dual diagnosis is when a person grapples with two concurrent issues: a mental health disorder and a substance misuse problem, such as codependency coupled with addiction. This creates a substantial challenge when it comes to the management and treatment of both conditions, as they often provoke and intensify each other.

Several factors contribute to the frequent co-occurrence of addiction and codependency. An individual wrestling with codependency might inadvertently fuel another person’s addiction by offering financial support or concealing their making excuses for their behaviour. On the other hand, a person suffering from addiction might lean heavily on their partner, friend or family member to sustain their substance use which in turn can heighten the codependency.

Both codependency and addiction often result from past adversities or traumatic experiences in childhood. Individuals who have had these kinds of experiences may be more susceptible to adopting codependent or addictive behaviours as a crutch to cope with difficult emotions and memories.

Treating addiction in the presence of codependence

Addressing addiction in a person who also has codependency issues can pose significant challenges. At Oasis Runcorn, we understand that for successful addiction treatment, initial stabilisation of codependency is essential, thereby empowering the individual to make crucial recovery steps independently.

This can be a tough process for those grappling with codependency who might feel compelled to leave rehab in order to return to their responsibilities as a caregiver or, on the other hand, may feel too reliant on their partner to complete rehab without them.

However, many rehab therapies are also beneficial and tackle the root causes and symptoms of codependency by proxy. These include:

  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) – DBT is a kind of therapy that focuses on being present at the moment, dealing with tough situations without getting upset and gaining better control over emotional reactions. These skills are crucial for people dealing with codependency and addiction who often have a hard time controlling their emotions or managing stress. DBT helps them to stay calm and handle difficult situations without needing approval from others or using drugs and alcohol to get by.
  • Family therapy – As you might guess from the name, family therapy involves family members in the recovery process. This can be really helpful for people in codependent relationships as it helps everyone communicate better, reset boundaries and work through any family problems that might be making the codependency worse. It also teaches family members effective ways to support the person in recovery without enabling them.
  • 12-step – The 12-step programme is a tried and tested recovery technique. It focuses on accepting an issue with addiction, looking at yourself and taking responsibility, and getting support from others on their recovery journeys. Each step provides new revelations about addiction and its effects on both the individual and others, including codependent issues.

Addiction recovery challenges caused by codependency

People with codependency can face some extra hurdles when they’re trying to get help for addiction. Here are some of the main problems they might face and how to deal with them:

Control struggles…

People with codependency may find it hard to give up control and have faith in the addiction treatment process. This is why it’s really important to work with therapists with experience with codependency, like those at Oasis Runcorn, who can help them to give up control and put faith in the process.

Boundary struggles…

Codependency can also make it difficult for people to adhere to the boundaries necessary in rehab. Our staff understand this and can help make the process of setting and learning to respect boundaries smoother.

Fear of being alone…

Codependency sufferers may also be scared of being abandoned or alone and avoid rehab treatment because they’re worried about losing the people they care about. This fear can be dealt with by creating a network of supportive people during treatment, taking part in conjoints and family therapy and learning ways to manage fears of being alone.

A hard time understanding their own needs…

People with codependency often find it hard to understand what they need during detox and rehab, which can cause recovery difficulties. It is, therefore, key to building self-confidence and developing positive self-care practices through different types of rehab therapies.

Get started today

If you or someone you care about is dealing with addiction and codependency, Oasis Runcorn can help you achieve sobriety and learn new ways of dealing with co-occurring conditions. Reach out to us today to find out more about how we can help you transform your life.

Frequently asked questions

Is codependency only found in romantic relationships?
No, while codependency is most commonly found in romantic relationships, codependency can actually happen in any kind of relationship. This includes friendships, relationships between parents and children, and even relationships at work.
What kinds of addictions are common with codependency?
Different people can develop different addictions, but people with codependency can struggle with drug addiction, alcohol addiction and behavioural addictions. These can all be very serious, so it’s important to get help as soon as you can.