Codependency and Addiction

codependency and addiction sad womanIt’s important to make sure that the dynamic between you and the people you lean on in life is healthy. When you allow someone to lean on you to the point where you’re enabling that person and taking care of him or her more than yourself, you’re becoming codependent.

The stress of always taking care of others and being in unhealthy relationships can cause a person to turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with life. Over time, this abuse of alcohol and drugs often turns into an addiction. While codependency and addiction often go hand in hand, they only worsen one another’s condition. 

Another way to become codependent is to choose to constantly be in unhealthy romantic relationships rather than cater to yourself and just stay alone. When people always feel the need to be in a relationship despite it being unhealthy, those people are addicted to relationships. This, in turn, means that those people are also codependent.  

Either way, if you are sacrificing your well-being, happiness, or self-worth to maintain a relationship with someone else, then you’re likely a codependent person. Because alcohol and drugs can have adverse effects on people who are codependent, codependency and addiction should be avoided at all costs.

If you do find yourself codependent and simultaneously suffering from addiction, you’re going to need dual diagnosis treatment. Prior to receiving dual diagnosis treatment for codependency and addiction, you need to understand what both of these conditions entail individually.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is putting other people’s needs before your own to the point at which you have an unhealthy relationship. Codependency can come in many forms. For one, codependency can occur between family members or friends. For example, if your family member or friend is an addict and that person constantly leans on you to cover for him or her whenever he or she lies and sneaks out to receive drugs, you’re a codependent enabler. 

Another way that you can have a codependent relationship with an person who has an addiction is by paying all of his or her bills. Paying this person’s bills is especially a sign of codependent enabling if the addict has no money due to him or her recklessly spending it all on substances. In this case, because you aren’t letting your loved one feel the consequences of his or her reckless actions, you’re enabling that person’s addiction. 

This type of enabling behavior from you also increases the chances that your loved one will need you in the future. Therefore, your relationship with that person is codependent. 

Codependency also occurs in romantic relationships. For example, if you immediately go from abusive relationship to abusive relationship, this could signal that you’re codependent. This is because it makes it seem as if you need a romantic relationship to feel whole, even when that relationship is poor. 

Symptoms of Codependency

The signs and symptoms of codependency vary depending on the type of codependent relationships that an individual has. The codependent symptoms listed below are typical behaviors that someone who suffers from codependency, and possibly addiction, would display.

  • Chronic anger
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Need for approval
  • Difficulty saying ‘no’
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Inability to trust people
  • Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety
  • Containing feelings of resentment and despair
  • Confusing love with pain
  • Poor communication skills
  • Being a dependent person 
  • Inability to adjust to change
  • Being hypercritical of yourself
  • Having constant feelings of guilt
  • Constant desire to please people
  • Inability to create healthy boundaries
  • Inability to take responsibility for actions
  • A need to control other people’s feelings
  • Obsessing over other people’s anxieties and fears

Causes of Codependency

There are multiple things that cause people to exhibit codependent behaviors. One major factor as to why people are codependent is because they were brought up in dysfunctional families. A dysfunctional family is one whose members experience feelings of fear, anger, shame, and guilt that are ignored and denied. 

When people are codependent due to their dysfunctional families, they tend to repress their emotions and disregard their own needs. This is partly due to dysfunctional families not acknowledging that problems exist within the family. By not acknowledging their emotions, members of a dysfunctional family learn at a young age to put others’ needs before their own even if it means bringing harm upon themselves. 

Another cause of codependency is having a chemical imbalance in your brain. Your brain chemistry plays a huge role in the way that you display emotions and deal with problems. Therefore, if you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, it can easily cause you to behave in a codependent manner.

Other causes of codependency include childhood trauma and past relationships. For example, if you had experienced a traumatic situation at a young age that made it difficult for you to confide in the people close to you, you might have developed a tendency to put others’ problems before your own. This would ultimately cause you to become codependent as an adult. 

When it comes to relationships, having a former romantic partner that abused you physically or emotionally could cause you to become codependent and need the constant love and approval of others. 

Your current life can also influence your level of codependency. For example, if you’re currently going through a relationship (romantic or non-romantic) that is unhealthy and makes you feel insecure, it could cause you to develop codependency. 

What is Addiction?

Addiction is the inability to function without substances and the willingness to do anything to get substances. To have an addiction, you must also have a dependency on substances. To have a dependency on substances, you must have withdrawal symptoms whenever you minimize or discontinue your substance use. 

Symptoms of Addiction

Most symptoms of addiction are either physiological or behavioral. The wider variety of addiction symptoms that you’re aware of, the more likely that you can diagnose codependency and addiction.

Physiological Symptoms of Addiction

Behavioral Symptoms of Addiction

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Sleep issues
  • Heart palpitations
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain/weight loss
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Repeated speech patterns
  • Increased drug tolerance
  • Irritability
  • Legal problems
  • Risky behavior
  • Secretiveness
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Change of social circle
  • Lying, cheating, and stealing
  • Not participating in former activities of enjoyment

Causes of Addiction

The causes of addiction are usually genetic, environmental, or emotional in nature. To learn just how each of these categories of factors influences addiction, continue reading.

Genetic Factors

40% – 60% of people with a predisposition to addiction have it because of genetics. Individuals are also 25% more likely to develop an addiction if they have parents who suffer from addiction. Neurotransmitters release pleasure chemicals into the brain when people consume substances. This can also lead to the development of addiction

Emotional Factors

Experiencing negative emotions throughout life can cause people to use substances to deal with emotional pain. This use of substances can easily turn into an addiction. 

Environmental Factors

The environment that a person grew up in plays a huge role in whether or not they’re susceptible to addiction. If a person grew up around people who used substances regularly, this may make them more comfortable with substances. Thus, they may be more likely to develop an addiction.

Co-Occurring Codependency and Addiction

When it comes to codependency and addiction, the struggling individual is not the primary person with a codependency problem. Actually, the person that shows the most codependency in this situation is the person that the addict frequently turns to for help. 

Unfortunately, having a codependent person around someone with addiction will only cause that person’s addiction to worsen. This is because a codependent person will provide little to no resistance against an addict when asked to do something. As a result, codependent people are easy for addicts to manipulate. 

The Effects of Codependency and Addiction

When a codependent person has a close relationship with an addict, it negatively affects both the codependent person and the addict. One way that it does so is by causing the codependent person to burnout helping the addict. Having a close relationship with a codependent individual hurts the addict by not having someone to hold the individual accountable. Thus, the person is able to abuse more substances when with a codependent friend than with a non-codependent friend. 

When a codependent person becomes consumed with helping an individual who suffers from addiction function, he or she may even lose all of the other friends that he or she had outside of the codependent one. As codependency becomes severe, the codependent person may even skip out on completing day-to-day responsibilities so that he or she can help the struggling individual instead. 

If a codependent person is burnt out helping an addict with all of his or her needs, the individual is likely to also acquire an addiction. This could be an addiction to substances, gambling, or even food. Over time, the codependent person may also start to develop an eating disorder or mental illness to cope with the stress of having a codependent relationship with an addict. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Codependency and Addiction

codependency and addiction counseling sessionWhile treating a co-occurring disorder made out of codependency and addiction, you must treat both disorders simultaneously. The best way to treat codependency is to attend psychotherapy. Forms of psychotherapy that are most effective when treating codependency include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and experiential groups. 

In terms of treating addiction, you should attend detox and then some form of inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment. When treating both codependency and addiction, you should receive detox, inpatient, or outpatient addiction treatment, and different forms of psychotherapy all in one treatment program. 

Until you complete treatment for your co-occurring disorder, the best way to treat codependency and addiction is to remember the four As of codependency recovery. These four As include remaining abstinent, acknowledging your codependency, accepting your flaws, and making conservative steps to activate them.  

Silver Linings Has Everything That You Need

Silver Linings is a rehab treatment facility with a wide variety of addiction treatment and therapy services to help treat your co-occurring disorder. Whether you’re addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs, or an illegal substance, Silver Linings has specialized inpatient and outpatient treatment programs just for you.

We also provide therapy services ranging from telehealth therapy, to family therapy, to medication-assisted therapy, to holistic therapy, and more. That way you can receive all the therapy that you need to treat your codependency disorder. 

If you do indeed have a dual diagnosis disorder of codependency and addiction, we also provide special dual diagnosis treatment services. That way you can treat your codependency and addiction simultaneously. To learn more about Silver Linings and the services that we provide, contact us today.


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