Breaking Free From Codependency
The terms codependent and codependency come from the research into the impact of alcohol abuse on spouses, partners, and families. Today, researchers also see codependency as a learned behaviour, often stemming from deeply dysfunctional families.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is an unhealthy need to rely on another person in a relationship, in order to validate the self. It is sometimes called love addiction or relationship addiction, but it is much more than either of those two terms imply.
A person with codependent behaviour is one who enters into a relationship with a person and wants to surrender and give everything to them. They tend to smother and overwhelm partners, eventually leading to the breakup of the relationship. Narcissists and people experiencing other types of personality disorder are often attracted to the codependent person, as they are willing to make them the centre of the relationship.
A codependent has limited ability to set boundaries, and will often remain in abusive and emotionally or physically violent relationships. They would rather be in any type of relationship than be alone, which creates the potential for a dangerous situation.
How it Develops
Children growing up in homes where one or both parents who are alcoholics or addicts can often be a root cause of codependency. In the parents' relationship the young child sees a codependent pattern, but also feels extreme loneliness, isolation and neglect. The child can take on the role of parent to siblings and sometimes even the parents, but they are never recognised for their efforts.
Over time, these children develop extremely low self-esteem. They also experience significant fear, shame, and pain from their early relationship with their parents, and may end up being subjected to emotional, physical or sexual abuse in early life. They often strive to be perfect- in order to be recognised - but always seem to fall short of perfection, which further reinforces their negative self-image.
As an adult, the codependent is often drawn to a "damaged" partner, one whom they see they can "fix." The adult codependent will be attracted to a completely opposite person, someone who seems in control, assertive and commanding. They are also drawn to people with addictions and relationship problems, which further strengthens the codependents desire to "fix" the problem and the individual.
Over time the codependent becomes the caregiver, often covering up and even assisting the alcoholic or abuser in their behaviour. While the codependent feels satisfaction in this role, it also becomes a trap, leading to feelings of helplessness over the inability to break away from the downward cycle of the relationship.
Moving on from Codependency
The key factor to remember is that codependency is not a disease or a condition; it is a learned pattern of behaviour. While children have no way to understand why they have specific thoughts and beliefs that drive their behaviour, adults can work with therapists and counsellors to make effective changes, and learn new, positive patterns of behaviour.
At Addiction Specialist London we assist people in moving from codependency into healthy, positive relationships. This starts with addressing underlying issues including low self-esteem, and developing the ability to set boundaries, become confident, and understand the structure of a healthy relationship.
If you are interested in finding out more about our work or would like help with codependency, please get in touch by calling us or using our secure online contact form.