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Codependency

Codependency Group Therapy

Codependency is characterized by sacrificing one’s personal needs in order to try to meet the needs of others and is associated with passivity and feelings. It is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. Codependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. of shame, low self-worth, or insecurity. The disorder was first identified as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Today it is more broadly associated with the behaviors of someone whose actions and thoughts revolve around another person or thing.

Who Does Codependency Affect?

Codependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, codependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any codependent person from any dysfunctional family.

Signs of Codependency

Codependency does not constitute a diagnosable mental health condition, largely because the symptoms of codependency are so broad and widely applicable. The primary symptoms associated with codependency may be people-pleasing behaviors and the need for the validation and approval that comes from caring for and rescuing others. The codependent person may also have poor boundaries, fear being alone or without an intimate partner, and deny his or her desires and emotions.

Other characteristics of codependency may include:

  • Perfectionism and a fear of failure Definition of codependency
  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • Denial of personal problems
  • Excessive focus on the needs of others
  • Failure to meet personal needs
  • Discomfort with receiving attention or help from others
  • Feelings of guilt or responsibility for the suffering of others
  • Reluctance to share true thoughts or feelings for fear of displeasing others
  • Low self-esteem
  • Internalized shame and helplessness
  • Projection of competence and self-reliance
  • A need to control others
  • Self-worth based on caretaking
  • Feeling undeserving of happiness
  • Caring for and enabling someone who abuses drugs or alcohol

While the person experiencing codependency chooses to provide care for others, they may also resent those people. They may feel trapped in the role of caregiver, even though that role provides a sense of importance and an escape from working on personal issues. On the other hand, some people claim to enjoy the caregiving role, when in reality, they are trying to hide the fact that they are chronically unhappy.

What Causes Codependency

Codependency is usually rooted in childhood. A child who is constantly called upon to meet the needs of others will learn to suppress their own needs and may become addicted, in a sense, to filling the caregiving role. For example, someone who grew up with a drug-addicted or alcoholic parent, or who experienced abuse, emotional neglect, or the reversal of the parent-child role may develop codependent behaviors, and these patterns tend to repeat in adult relationships.

Therapy for Codependency

Numerous forms of therapy are available to help treat codependency including:

  • Family therapy can help break dysfunctional and unhealthy interaction patterns between people in an addict/codependent relationship.
  • Group therapy provides codependent individuals with a safe and appropriate space to express their feelings and learn communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy can help to change negative, codependent patterns of thought and beliefs in order to change behavior. This treatment aims to teach the codependent person how to recognize his or her own problems and separate them from those of the addicted individual.
  • CoDependents Anonymous (CoDA) is a 12-step program can help people struggling with codependency learn healthy habits and behaviors from others dealing with similar issues.

Psychotherapy can help people understand why they overcompensate, fulfill everyone’s needs but their own, or put themselves last. Family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are both well suited to treating codependency, although any form of therapy is likely to help. A therapist can help a person identify codependent tendencies, understand why the behaviors were adopted in the first place, and develop self-compassion in order to heal and transform old patterns.

Recovering from Codependency

Codependency underlies all addictions. The core symptom of “dependency” manifests as reliance on a person, substance, or process. Instead of having a healthy relationship with yourself, you make something or someone else more important. Over time, your thoughts, feelings, and actions revolve around that other person, activity, or substance, and you increasingly abandon your relationship with yourself.

Healing develops the following characteristics:

  • Authenticity
  • Autonomy
  • Capability of being intimate
  • Integrated and congruent values, thoughts, feelings, and actions

Change is not easy. It takes time and often involves abstinence, awareness, acceptance, and action.

Abstinence or sobriety is necessary to recover from codependency. The goal is to bring your attention back to yourself. This means that your actions are primarily motivated by your values, needs, and feelings, not someone else’s. You learn to meet those needs in healthy ways. Perfect abstinence or sobriety isn’t necessary for progress, and it’s impossible with respect to codependency with people. You need and depend upon others and therefore give and compromise in relationships. Instead of abstinence, you learn to detach and not control, people-please, or obsess about others. You become more self-directed and autonomous.

It’s said that denial is the hallmark of addiction. This is true whether you’re an alcoholic or in love with one. Not only do codependents deny their own addiction, they deny their feelings, and especially their needs, particularly emotional needs for nurturing and real intimacy. All this leads to low self-esteem. To reverse these destructive habits, you first must become aware of them. The most damaging obstacle to self-esteem is negative self-talk.

Healing requires self-acceptance. This is not only a step, but a life-long journey. People come to therapy to change themselves, not realizing that the work is about accepting themselves. Ironically, before you can change, you have to accept the situation. Accepting reality opens the doors of possibility. Change then happens. New ideas and energy emerge that previously stagnated from self-blame and fighting reality.

Insight without action only gets you so far. In order to grow, self-awareness and self-acceptance must be accompanied by new behavior. This involves taking risks and venturing outside your comfort one. It may involve speaking up, trying something new, going somewhere alone, or setting a boundary. It also means setting internal boundaries by keeping commitments to yourself. Instead of expecting others to meet all your needs and make you happy, you learn to take actions to meet them, and do things that give you fulfillment and satisfaction in your life. Each time you try out new behavior or take a risk, you learn something new about yourself and your feelings and needs. You’re creating a stronger sense of yourself, as well as self-confidence and self-esteem.

Goals of Treatment

Treatment for a codependent person can lead to:

  • Increased self-confidence
  • Improved coping skills
  • Enhanced decision-making
  • Improved communication skills
  • Reduced trauma
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Decreased codependent behaviors

Codependency recovery is a process, just as overcoming addiction is a process. The codependent person wades through denial, survival tactics and unhealthy coping mechanisms developed over time. Codependents often have an addiction to one or more substances or behaviors. These are often means of coping with pressures and stresses of living with an addict. Sorting through all this takes time. Professional help such as time in codependency treatment centers or intensive outpatient therapy with a therapist is often required to recover.

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