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How to Stop Codependent Behaviors

Written By: Harris House

Category: Abuse

Codependency can be a direct impediment to recovery from substance abuse problems. In order to stop these behaviors, we must first understand them. Here’s a closer look at codependency, along with why family therapy is a vital part of substance abuse treatment.

Son hugging his mother.

Correcting codependent behaviors leads to intimacy for families struggling with addiction.


What is Codependency?

“Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior,” explains PsychCentral


Signs and symptoms of codependency may include low self-esteem, people-pleasing, poor boundaries, reactivity, caretaking, control, dysfunctional communication, obsessions, dependency, denial, intimacy problems, and painful emotions. Codependency is also linked with other problems, including everything from eating disorders to depression.


Codependency and Addiction

Codependency can be a particularly tricky concept in the context of drug addiction within a family. When addicts make poor choices, their loved ones may automatically attempt to “help” by taking over and trying to solve their problems for them. Unfortunately, this interference can be misguided. Addiction is an illness, and while blurred boundaries and controlling behaviors may temporarily prevent detrimental consequences, it’s ultimately not just delaying the inevitable, but also contributing to its escalation.

The negative repercussions of this dynamic aren’t limited to the addicts. Explains Mental Health America of codependency, “Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become ‘survivors.’ They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited.”

In other words, with so much attention focused on the addicted person, codependent loved ones lose sight of their own needs. The end result is a lose-lose in which loved ones harm themselves, lose trust in each other, and grow further apart.


Treating Codependency

Because codependency is an issue for many addicts, it’s critical to include it as part of any comprehensive substance abuse treatment program. This means getting to the root of the problem. “Treatment for codependency often involves exploration of early childhood issues and their connection to current dysfunctional behavior patterns. Getting in touch with deep-rooted feelings of hurt, loss, and anger will allow you to reconstruct appropriate relationship dynamics,” saysPsychology Today


Addressing codependency isn’t just about facilitating a path to recovery for substance abusers. It’s also about putting families fractured by addiction back together again. It’s also crucial in terms of preventing the same patterns from recurring in the future. After all, these are ingrained behaviors that won’t change on their own.

Group of three people sitting in a circle comforting each other.

Family therapy is a path to halting codependent behaviors.

This isn’t to say that recovery from codependency is easy. In fact, it’s a difficult process comprising four steps, including abstinence/sobriety; awareness of the issue; self-acceptance; and action. In taking these steps, codependent behaviors give way to authenticity, autonomy, intimacy, and “integrated and congruent values, thoughts, feelings and actions,” says PsychCentral.


We’re Here to Help

If codependent behaviors and codependency are preventing your family from moving forward, a holistic treatment program may be the healing solution you’ve been looking for. To learn more about how Harris House’s proven St. Louis drug rehab programs address dependent behaviors, contact us today.

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