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What is Codependency?
The characteristics of codependency can vary between individuals and relationships. Yet, a codependent relationship or person will share some core features, including relationships that are one-sided, emotionally toxic or destructive, or abusive. Codependency is a learned set of behaviors that typically arises from dysfunctional environments where abuse or addiction exists. The following represents a list of common characteristics that codependent people share:
- A need to control others
- Tendencies to blur or confuse love with pity
- An exaggerated need to be responsible for others’ actions
- A willingness to pick up the slack or take on the responsibilities of others
- A strong need for outside approval and recognition
- A fear of abandonment and an unhealthy dependence on relationships
Those who are codependent can also have difficulties with change, establishing and maintaining boundaries in relationships, establishing trust in others and oneself, and making decisions or communicating. Although codependent people have good intentions, their desire to fix and control those with an addiction can be detrimental. They can become enablers or sacrifice their needs at their expense. This can lead to anger, neglect of oneself, and the inability to identify what they are really feeling.
Does Addiction Create Codependency?
Being in a relationship with someone who has an addiction or seeking addiction treatment doesn’t mean it’s a codependent relationship. However, relationships where one or more individuals are using substances, are at a higher risk of becoming codependent. A codependent relationship can occur in the following scenarios:
- Both people are using substances or have an addiction to substances.
- A family member or spouse uses substances.
- A parent has an addiction or is in addiction treatment.
Codependency is more likely to develop when families or individuals deny an addiction or problem. Ignoring or denying addiction treatment is necessary does not make the problem go away. In fact, it teaches others in the relationship that they cannot say “no” and have to remain quiet about their perspectives. The person learns to become codependent by taking on the other person’s responsibilities to maintain the lie that the addiction does not exist or maintain the relationship.
Contacting Northern Illinois Recovery for Addiction Treatment
Seeking addiction treatment is more complex than helping a person with an addiction. Since codependent relationships can be present, family members, spouses, and friends may also need treatment. Years of dysfunction and attempts to fix someone else can take their toll. However, addiction and codependency do not have to control your life.
Licensed Physician and Surgeon
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, and is the medical director at Northern Illinois Recovery Center. She is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at both campuses. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.