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Working Through Co-Dependency

What is co-dependency?

Many people are confused about what the term “co-dependency” actually means. Co-dependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects a person’s ability to have a healthy relationship with normal boundaries. It is often passed down from one generation to another and often has its root in a dysfunctional family system. Some people call it “relationship addiction” because the co-dependent person cannot withdraw from the relationship – they have an excessive need to control the relationship and the other person. This can be emotionally destructive and even abusive. Co-dependency can be learned by modeling behavior on family members who display this type of unhealthy behavior.

What is a dysfunctional family?

A dysfunctional family is one that allows emotions such as fear, anger, shame and worry to be repressed and not spoken about or addressed in a way that allows healthy processing. Members of the family become accustomed to a repressed emotional existence and this can often be mixed with alcohol / drug abuse, sex addiction or other addictions.

Co-dependent relationships…

Due to low self-esteem levels, a co-dependent person typically seeks to immerse themselves in a relationship in order to feel needed or loved. They take on a “rescuer” mentality – they rescue the alcoholic / substance dependent person they are with from troublesome situations, thus they enable their partner or child to continue the destructive pattern.

Co-dependency treatment

Patterns of co-dependency are often learned in childhood, thus treatment needs to explore the co-dependent person’s childhood experience and parenting model. Individual and group therapy can help the person shape a new view of themselves and what a healthy relationship looks like. Treatment will also help the person uncover feelings that were buried during childhood and will help them process these feelings. Treatment may also involve analysis of the family dynamics and any unhealthy patterns that permeate through the family history.

Perhaps you feel like this is you or someone you know? Our site offers online therapy via email as well as online support groups. If you are suicidal, please dial 911 (if you are in the U.S.) or the suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE).