When evaluating substance use disorder, common factors to identify include signs of codependency and codependent symptoms between the struggling individual and their family. Since substance misuse and codependency often occur hand-in-hand, it’s important to understand exactly what codependency is, and how it can negatively impact the ability to receive proper help, or treatment.

Codependency is defined as a relationship shared between two or more individuals, where one person has extreme physical or emotional needs, often pertaining to alcohol and substance misuse, while the other person(s) becomes overly involved in responding to those needs. This often leads to the detriment of everyone involved, negatively impacting lives, activities, and other healthy relationships. Oftentimes, codependent actions can lead to enabling, making it easier for an individual to maintain their destructive behaviors.

Factors of a Codependent Family

While codependency does not necessarily relate solely to drug or alcohol misuse, it was first recognized in relation to family members of people struggling with alcoholism, as explained by Mental Health America. Individuals struggling with substance misuse disorders often naturally seek help from their family members, and this in turn can create a codependent family. These situations can manifest from factors including:

  • Partners who are both misusing drugs
  • Close adult family members or significant others of individuals using drugs
  • Children of people who are misusing drugs

Codependency in substance use recovery can greatly impede upon the individual finding the proper guidance or treatment, as it often allows them to feel as if their actions are warranted, or justified. When an individual becomes codependent, they begin to rely on their loved ones to validate their sense of self-worth. These codependent symptoms can lead to behaviors that are overly controlling and self-centered, despite the codependent partner’s attempts at guidance, or the apparent selflessness of their actions.

Signs of Codependency

Some of the most common signs and codependent symptoms include:

  • Trouble articulating feelings and emotions – Codependent people often have difficulty expressing their emotions, on the basis that no one cares about how they feel or what they have to say.
  • Feeling of responsibility to fix a partner’s problems – Sometimes people believe it is their duty entirely to help a struggling individual. They will put enormous amounts of pressure on themselves, and feel responsible for the issues their partner faces.
  • Loyal to a fault – Codependent individuals will sometimes remain in harmful situations far too long just to hold onto a relationship, even if it’s not working.
  • Completely absorbed by a partner’s struggles – Codependent individuals may become obsessed with trying to cure their partner, to the point of neglecting many of their own needs. This can derive from their desire to remain in control, or out of fear of being abandoned.

Negative Effects of Codependency

Codependent individuals are often at an increased risk of developing their own substance use disorders. They may also lose relationships with others as a result of their codependency, and may be unable to keep up with responsibilities outside of the codependent relationship. Codependent individuals work so hard to care for their loved one that their own needs are neglected, which can also result in poor health, low self-esteem, depression, and other mental and physical consequences.

Avoiding Codependency

Retreat Behavioral Health is proud to provide services and resources for individuals struggling with codependency and substance use disorders. We understand the difficulty these relationships can bring for everyone involved, and we are here to provide families and loved ones with the proper guidance they need to overcome the challenges. Contact us today for more information.