Symptoms

Codependency is a pattern of behavior in which people appear to place the needs of others before their own needs. As a result, codependent people may have difficulty forming healthy and balanced relationships. Instead, they tend to get close to other people who have addictions or mental health problems that the codependent person tries to ignore or avoid.

Codependency was first described as a pattern among partners or family members of people with alcohol and drug problems. Since then, the term “codependent” has been adapted to many situations.

Codependent people often look for something outside themselves that makes them feel better. Dysfunctional families, in which misbehavior or abuse is accepted as normal, are a major source of codependent behavior.

Codependent people fall easily into a caretaker role. They often view themselves as “martyrs” and thrive on the sense of being needed. In addition, they may not acknowledge that a problem (e.g., a partner’s alcoholism) exists. Over time, the sense of caring can become compulsive and emotionally draining, leaving the codependent person feeling angry and unappreciated.

People engaged in codependent behavior tend to avoid confronting difficult emotions. They feel disconnected from their own needs and desires, struggle with their feelings and have difficulty trusting others. The emotional toll of codependency often leads patients to try to escape through drug and alcohol abuse. Others with codependency may develop compulsive behaviors such as gambling or risky sex.

Several types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and family therapy, may be used to treat codependency. Treatment may take the form of individual or group therapy, or a combination of both. Ultimately, treatment for codependency is only successful when patients move away from excessive caretaking and learn to address their own needs.

Several forms of therapy may be used to treat codependency, including family therapy and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Patients will likely explore issues from their childhood that may have led them to form the destructive patterns that are in place today. Therapy may take the form of individual or group counseling, or a combination of both.

During treatment, patients may be encouraged to reconstruct family dynamics and to try to get in touch with hidden emotions. The goal is to have patients reconnect with their feelings.

Ultimately, treatment for codependency will not be successful unless the patient learns to recognize and stop behavior that has negative consequences for the patient. Patients must move away from excessive caretaking and learn to address their own needs.

The relationship within our ‘self’ of body, mind and emotions shapes our ability to relate to other people, and to the spiritual power in the universe.

Depression, addictions, compulsive behavior and low self-esteem are but symptoms, signs of a broken relationship within our ‘self’. They are symptoms of a ‘wounded spirituality’.

When this connection between our body, mind and emotions is broken, our ability, our ‘response-ability’, to respond healthily to life’s circumstances is limited.

In recovery our task is to identify and undo the broken parts of ourselves and learn to respond positively and creatively – to say YES to life in a way which enables serenity to grow and be maintained.

Some of these symptoms are;

• Alcoholism / drug addiction / compulsive gambling

• Eating disorders (overeating, bulimia, anorexia)

• Perfectionism and overachieving

• Workaholism

• Co-dependency

• Depression / shame / guilt / blaming others / denial / self-centerdness / grandiosity / sensitivity / immaturity / low self-esteem / inhibitions

• Religious addiction

• Sex addiction

• Relapse, switched addictions, multiple addictions

• Controlism

• Moneyism

In order to heal our spirituality, it is helpful to discover what we believe; what we think about the Higher Power, the self, other people, the world and life or even what we do about these issues without thinking about them – reactions. Then we need to find how those beliefs may have contributed to the breakdown of the mental-emotional-physical relationship within ourselves. Where did we learn these spiritually dysfunctional ideas?

SOURCES OF WOUNDED SPIRITUALITY

If the above behaviors and states of mind are some of the signs of a wounded spirituality, just where and how did we get wounded?

We should remember that our new spirituality excludes blaming. These sources of wounding are only used to help us identify our dysfunctional beliefs. Some of the sources of injury are;

• Dysfunctional families

• Addictive/alcoholic families

• Overprotective, underprotective or interrupted parenting

• Unhealthy messages and beliefs about God and religion

• Negative, shaming messages about expressions of feelings

• Taboos about sex; negative messages about sex, sexuality or the body

• Lack of freedom to ask questions, evaluate information

• Lack of freedom to be ourselves, or an inner conflict about what we think that we should be doing and what is ‘expected’ of us

• Invasions of privacy

• Physical abuse

• Sexual abuse

• Emotional abuse

• Religious terrorism

Of course, practicing the symptoms of a wounded spirituality (alcoholism, addiction, low self-esteem & etc) can enable the spirit to be damaged even more. I am sure most alcoholics & addicts know how their own behavior became worse over the years, as the drinking or drugging got worse.

Thus, once started and if not ‘arrested’ by recovering a healthy spirit, we may walk into the gates of “insanity or death.” We may have arrived at a state of “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.”

Codependency usually comes about as your response to another person’s chemical dependency. It revolves around your relationships with the people in your life. It involves the effects these people have on you. You, in turn, then try to affect them and their behaviors. As you begin to see them spiraling out of control, you end up trying to control their behavior.

The soul of codependency lays in you, though, not the other person. It is a silent war you begin within yourself. Usually it develops from low self-esteem. The codependent person does not feel worthy. It is a dysfunctional relationship with the self. Because you live a dysfunctional relationship internally it manifests externally to others. You don’t love yourself and you don’t trust yourself either. You tend to be out of balance and out of harmony. You may feel disconnected. You tend to live life in a reactor mode and give your power over to outside sources.

Chemical dependency is recognized as a disease. Codependency may not be recognized in the same means, but it can make you sick and will not help you or your loved one start on the road to recovery. Codependency is a progressive state. As things around you get steadily worse, your reactions to those things become more intense. In the back of your mind you may think you are helping the other person. You may have the best intentions. As you see it, they are destroying themselves. You don’t realize that the characteristics you portray as a response to their behavior not only sabotage your relationship with that person, but sabotage yourself.

Codependents feel obligated to offer unwanted advice to help the other person solve what you see as their problems. You feel responsible for the other person. Somewhere wrapped up in that process you are trying to please others. You want them to see you as necessary in their lives. You want them to see how essential you are to their well being. You will even abandon your own routine to help the other person.

When your help is either brushed off or not effective the way you thought it would be you become angry. You blame others for the spot you are in. You blame others for making you feel the way you do. You feel unappreciated, used and you become a victim. Over time you learn how to endure it. You live with the anxiety, the hurt and the anger.

If these signs sound familiar, there is help. Once you have determined that these feelings and tendencies in no way help you or the other person, you must focus on correcting your inclination towards codependency. First, accept that we all are responsible for our own feelings and actions. Do not be afraid to let the other person live their life, to live with the consequences they create. Love the person and be there for them, but do not try to control or manipulate the final outcome of their behavior. It may be hard at first, but they too have a lesson to learn that you will not always be there to bail them out of their bad choices.

Second, realize that you are worthy of being loved. Don’t center your life on other people thinking that you don’t deserve happiness too. Stop looking to relationships to provide you all your good feelings. Look within you and start loving yourself. Then others around you will see the radiance you exhibit and will gravitate toward you.

Third, begin to focus on your own life. You have probably let it slide to the wayside. Look for your happiness within yourself, not outside towards others. Think about your passions and what makes you happy. Then start to concentrate on the steps you can take to start living a joyful life.

You may be codependent, but know that you are a strong people. You have just mistakenly focused your attention toward the wrong thing. You have the power to change and to start recovery. That will let you be who you are while letting the other person be who they are.

Here is a short video that can help you decide if you are codependent or not. Watch it carefully and see if these factors are present in your relationship.

People who are codependent have a belief system that is linked to how they relate to someone else. Usually that someone else is an alcoholic or drug addict.  Codependents identify their life and well being to how things are going for the alcoholic.  They believe that what they are doing is what is best.  But doing what they think is best for the alcoholic/addict, could destroy themselves.

Here is a small list of behaviors/beliefs that define a codependent person.  There are so many behaviors that this  list could go on and on.  But look at it – can you see yourself in any of these behaviors?

    • I feel good about myself when I am with or belong to someone
    • I focus my attention on pleasing others
    • ‘Helping’ others fix their problems boosts my self esteem
    • If someone close to me is having struggles, it affects my peace of mind
    • I am aware of how those around me feel, but I don’t know how I feel
    • Relieving someone’s pain boosts my self esteem
    • Getting approval from others makes me feel good
    • I seldom give myself approval for doing a good job
    • I fear rejection and it affects what I say or do
    • I believe my hopes and dreams are linked to other people in my life
    • Other people’s opinions are more important than mine
    • I will put my values aside to gain approval
    • My happiness is directly related to the happiness of those around me
    • I focus on protecting others – both from their own actions and the actions of others
    • Other people’s interests and hobbies are more important than my own
    • I try to manipulate others to do things my way (although I may not be aware I am doing this)
    • When I am in a relationships, my association with friends diminishes
    • Fear of anger motivates me. I give more of myself to feel safe

If you can see yourself in one or more of these statements, you have codependent traits. You need to change your belief system and convince yourself you are a person of worth. You cannot count on the alcoholic/addict in your life to wake up and realize what a wonderful person you are – although we all hope for that!

Start today – make yourself a sign and post it where you will see it every day. Write something positive about yourself or an inspirational quote. If nothing else write – ‘I am a person of worth!’. Break free from the beliefs of codependency now.

Did you know that at least one fourth of the population is in a family that is affected by addiction? Not just a relative who is an alcoholic/addict, but a first-degree relative! Close to 90% of all actively addicted persons live with their family or a significant other. That family or significant other is you, me and everyone else affected by addiction and who struggles with codependency.

Ask yourself, am I codependent? You look at yourself and you think ‘no, I am a loving, caring individual who is trying to help the addict in my life.’ This is true, you are a loving, caring individual. And you ARE trying to help the alcoholic/addict overcome their addictions. But, are you caring about you? Are you loving and caring toward the person who needs it the most – yourself?

Here are some characteristics of Codependent behavior. Can you see yourself in any of these?

  • You go the extra mile to keep the peace in your home
  • You feel responsible for other peoples feelings, choices, wants, needs, etc.
  • Try to please others all the time, regardless if you are happy or not
  • Are unable to say no even when your are already stretched thin
  • Feel guilty when someone is giving to you
  • Feel angry and victimized
  • You try to catch your addict in the act of misbehaving
  • You are constantly searching for clues or some concrete proof of alcohol in the home
  • You always try to prove yourself, yet you never feel you measure up
  • You fear rejection
  • You are very hard on yourself. You are unhappy with how your look, think, feel, & act
  • You blame yourself
  • You desperately need love and affection
  • You lie to yourself that you can fix it
  • You wonder why you can’t catch up and get things done
  • You say what you THINK people want to hear instead of what you THINK
  • You blame others for your problems
  • You feel guilt for everything. Guilt for enjoying something, guilt for spending money on yourself. Just GUILT!
  • You believe you opinion doesn’t matter
  • You lie to protect the ones you love and to cover up for them
  • You lie to cover up for yourself
  • You have difficulty expressing your emotions honestly

This list could go on and on and you may not feel like everything on the list applies to you. But even if some of it does, you could be codependent. Life does seem unbearable – at times you don’t want to put another step forward. But life is good! We just need to change our outlook and learn to deal with our alcoholics differently!

You are a person of worth! Remember that you CAN break free from codependency.

Codependency is a term that we seem to hear a lot, but what does it really mean? If a person is codependent are they a bad person? Are they crazy? Just what is Codependency?
The dictionary definition is:

co-de•pen•dent or co•de•pen•dent (kō’dĭ-pěn’dənt)
adj.
1. Mutually dependent.
2. Of or relating to a relationship in which one person is psychologically dependent in an unhealthy way on someone who is addicted to a drug or self-destructive behavior, such as chronic gambling.
n. One who is co-dependent or in a co-dependent relationship.
co’de•pen’dence, co’de•pen’den•cy n.

Hmm – I am not sure that definition describes me. Why would I be in an unhealthy relationship? Don’t I deserve better than that? The truth is, many people – both men and women are in unhealthy relationships. They just can’t see it or won’t admit it. I know this – I have been in a relationship like this for almost 30 years. Yet, I only admitted that it is codependent a few years ago.
We see ourselves as caretakers – people who do their best to look after the people they love. We protect them, clean up after them, make excuses for them, take care of them. We do all this to the point of destroying ourselves.

Does this sound familiar:

  • You have to be perfect all the time
  • You do not show emotion
  • You keep the family secrets
  • You make excuses & clean up the messes
  • Others opinions are more important than your own
  • You react from fear of rejection or anger – You do not voice your opinions because you fear the reaction you will get
  • Your quality of life is directly related to your relationships
  • Low self esteem
  • No boundaries or the boundaries are not firm

The list could go on and on. But we don’t want to dwell on the negative. This site is here to help us overcome our destructive behaviors and find the happiness and peace we crave. So let’s begin this journey together as we strive to break free! We will learn and explore just what is codependency.