Addiction affects family and friends. When a person is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, these loved ones can be essential in helping the person get treatment. However, these same people can have the opposite effect if they are codependent. Codependency does not necessarily occur because of substance abuse, but when someone is addicted, a codependent person can hinder his or her recovery.
When one person in a relationship spends most of his or her time responding to the needs of the other person (such as an addict), it is not healthy. Research shows that codependency is often considered an addiction in itself.
Signs of being codependent
Anyone can become codependent, and it is important to recognize the signs of codependency so it can be overcome. Working toward being more independent is helpful to both people in the relationship and can help a substance abuser seek treatment. Signs include:
Low self-esteem. Self‐esteem is the opinion you have about yourself and what you think about yourself. Codependent people have felt that they are not good enough and are inadequate, unlovable, or inadequate. You may constantly be looking to other people for validation of your worth and take another person’s opinion over trusting your own judgment.
Poor boundaries. This isn’t just about your body and putting up an imaginary line between yourself and others. Having boundaries also refers to your feelings, thoughts, money, and belongings. If you have poor boundaries, you are often reactionary. You don’t present your own feelings; you instead react to other’s feelings. This is usually because you don’t want to have a disagreement and “go along to get along.”
People-pleasing. Codependents go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people. They are often excessive caretakers, and on some level, they want to say “no,” but don’t do it. You may find it’s because saying “no” actually makes you anxious, and thus, you will do whatever necessary to accommodate another person and his or her needs and desires.
Control. Codependents need to feel safe and secure. In an attempt to achieve this, you may act very bossy because you need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. You may be afraid of what someone else will do, so you will do your best to take control of situations instead of just letting things happen naturally. Codependents often work to control people and events emotionally with manipulation, domination, coercion, threats, guilt, or even with through helplessness.
Dysfunctional communication. If you don’t know what you think, feel, or need, you have trouble communicating that to others. Codependents communicate in dishonest and unclear ways. For example, you might say something is okay even if it is not. Codependents don’t say what they mean, don’t mean what they say and sometimes don’t even know what they mean. Sometimes you will try to say what you think will please people and other times you say what you think will provoke people. Codependents will bribe, beg and blame, and often gauge their words carefully to achieve the desired effect.
Dependency. Codependents need others to make them feel okay about themselves. You may find you feel depressed or lonely if left by yourself too long and sense you can’t function on your own. Afraid of being unloved or rejected causes codependents to stay in unhealthy relationships. When a relationship is particularly difficult or even abusive, the codependent feels trapped and unable to get out.
Denial. When someone is codependent, he or she thinks the problem is someone else or the situation. They don’t look at themselves or face their own issues. You may make attempts to try to fix the other person or continuously complain about circumstances. If questioned, a codependent will deny any vulnerability.