Codependency and addiction

We have all met someone who is a little too eager to please or is overly reliant on their partner. For those suffering from codependency, however, their entire happiness and mental health can be completely tied up in another person. Codependency is a difficult enough condition to manage alone, but when both addiction and codependency are present, the two conditions often feed off each other and make things even worse. This cycle may seem impossible to break as it can be incredibly challenging to address both conditions simultaneously but Banbury Lodge can help you take huge strides forward on the road to recovery and start a whole new life.

Codependency and addiction

What is codependency?

Codependency is a complex pattern of behaviour that often occurs in relationships where one person has an addiction or a mental health issue, and the other person takes on the role of caregiver or enabler.

The term codependency was first coined in the 1970s by psychologists who were studying the families of people with alcohol use disorders. They noticed that family members often exhibited certain patterns of behaviour such as a tendency to prioritise the needs of their addicted family member over their own or to take on a caretaker role in the family.

Codependency can have a significant impact on an individual’s life, often leading to unhealthy relationships and a sense of disconnection from oneself. The prevalence of codependency is challenging to measure, as it is not an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) but there are a huge number of people who exhibit some degree of codependent behaviour.

How does codependency develop?

Codependency is a learned behaviour that is often developed in childhood. It is usually seen in people who have experienced some form of emotional trauma or neglect or who grew up with a parent who had mental health and addiction issues and had to take on the role of a carer. In these situations, the person becomes programmed to automatically prioritise the needs of others over their own, leading to a pattern of codependent behaviour in adulthood.

What are the most common codependency symptoms?

Codependency symptoms can vary from individual to individual. However, some common signs include:

  • Low self-esteem and difficulty setting boundaries
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • An intense need for control
  • People-pleasing behaviour
  • Avoidance of conflict
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Apologising for things that were not your fault
  • Neglecting yourself or important parts of your life to focus on the other person
  • Unreasonable emotional reactions to situations

What is dual diagnosis addiction and codependency?

Dual diagnosis is the term used when an individual is diagnosed with both a mental health issue and a substance abuse disorder such as codependency and addiction. This presents significant problems both for managing and treating the two conditions as they often trigger and exacerbate each other.

There are many reasons why addiction and codependency often co-occur. Someone with codependency may enable another person’s addiction by providing money or covering up their behaviour. Conversely, someone with an addiction may rely on a codependent partner or family member to support their habit which can exacerbate the codependency.

Additionally, both codependency and addiction often stem from past traumas or difficulties, such as childhood neglect or abuse. People who have experienced these types of issues may be more vulnerable to developing codependent or addictive patterns of behaviour as a way to cope with their emotional pain.

How are codependency and addiction treated?

Treating addiction and codependency can be challenging, particularly when both conditions are present. At Banbury Lodge, we recognise that in order to effectively treat addiction, codependency must first be stabilised so that the individual is able to take the important steps themselves.

This can be difficult for codependency sufferers who may want to quit rehab treatment to resume their caregiver role or may conversely be too dependent on the other person to commit to treatment without them.

Once the situation is stable, effective addiction counselling can begin with many addiction therapies also helping to address the underlying causes and symptoms of codependency. These include:

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – For codependency sufferers, CBT can be an excellent starting point. This form of therapy focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviours and helping individuals break free from self-defeating cycles such as addiction. CBT also helps codependents learn to identify and challenge their people-pleasing behaviours, enabling them to form healthier relationships.
    Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
    Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) – DBT is a type of therapy that emphasises mindfulness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation. These skills are essential for addiction and codependency sufferers who struggle with regulating their emotions or managing stress. DBT also helps individuals to manage their emotions and behaviours more effectively without needing affirmation from another person or turning to drugs and alcohol to cope.
    Family Therapy
    Family Therapy – As the name suggests, family therapy involves the individual and their family members in the treatment process. This approach can be particularly helpful for codependency sufferers, as it helps improve communication, establish healthy boundaries, and address any dysfunctional family dynamics that may be contributing to codependent behaviour. Family therapy can also help family members learn how to support their loved ones in addiction recovery.
    12-step – The 12-step process, commonly used in addiction recovery, emphasises acceptance, self-reflection and accountability while providing support from a community of peers who are also in recovery. Through working the steps, individuals can identify patterns of behaviour and thinking that contribute to their codependency and addiction and learn healthy coping mechanisms to replace these maladaptive behaviours.

Codependency and addiction - EMDR

Unique challenges for codependency sufferers in rehab

Codependency can present unique challenges for individuals seeking addiction treatment. Here are some of the most common challenges and how to overcome them:

Difficulty letting go of control

Codependent individuals may struggle with letting go of control and trusting the addiction treatment process. This is why sufferers should work with a therapist who understands codependency and can help the individual develop trust in the treatment process.

Difficulty setting boundaries – People with codependency also find it difficult to set or respect the boundaries in rehab. To help overcome this issue, it’s essential that the root causes of codependency are explored during addiction therapy.

Fear of abandonment

Codependent individuals may fear abandonment and may be hesitant to engage in addiction treatment for fear of losing their loved ones. This can be managed by building a support network, engaging in family therapy and developing coping strategies for dealing with separation anxiety.

Difficulty identifying own needs

Codependent individuals may struggle with identifying their own needs and may be hesitant to ask for addiction help. Building self-esteem and developing healthy self-care habits are crucial for overcoming this common symptom of codependency.

How to get started

If you or a loved one is struggling with codependency and addiction, Banbury Lodge can help. Our team of experienced professionals can provide you with the tools and support you need to manage your addiction and codependent behaviour. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programmes and how we can help you get started on the path to recovery.


Frequently asked questions

Does codependency only occur in romantic relationships?
No, this is one of the most common misconceptions about codependency. While romantic relationships are indeed the most common codependency dynamic, the condition can be present in any type of relationship, including friendships, parent-child relationships and even in the workplace.
What are the most common addictions that codependency sufferers develop?
This varies from person to person but codependency and drug addiction, alcohol addiction and behavioural addiction are all common and can all have serious consequences. This is why it is so important to seek help for codependency and addiction as soon as possible.
Can addiction cause codependency?
Addiction can contribute to the development of codependency in some cases but it is not the sole cause. Codependency is a complex and multifaceted condition that often arises from a combination of factors, including family dynamics, personality traits and life experiences. However, addiction can be a trigger for codependency, especially in relationships where one person is struggling with substance abuse and the other becomes overly involved in managing the situation.
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