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Co-dependency is a recognised disorder that many entering treatment have to grapple with. More importantly, it is something that many a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence need to understand, fully comprehend and get the required help and counselling for, if recovery is to be successful, post inpatient treatment.

Co-dependency does not necessarily or always occur with drug abuse, but it was first recognized in relation to family members of people struggling with alcoholism and is commonly found in those who have close relationships to people who struggle with addiction. We cannot over emphasise how vital it is for all those involved, to comprehensively understand this disorder and how to manage its complexities in order for treatment to be successful.

What is it?

Co-dependency defines a relationship in which one partner has extreme physical or emotional needs, and the other partner spends most of their time responding to those needs, often to the detriment of the co-dependent partner’s life, activities, and other relationships. Co-dependency can result in a difficult spiral in which the co-dependent partner cares for and enables the loved one’s challenges, making it easier for the loved one to maintain the challenging or destructive behaviours. 

How does this behaviour actively manifest in a relationship? The following characteristics are extremely common in co-dependents:

*An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
*A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
*A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
*A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
*An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
*An extreme need for approval and recognition
*A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
*A compelling need to control others
*Lack of trust in self and/or others
*Fear of being abandoned or alone
*Difficulty identifying feelings
*Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
*Problems with intimacy/boundaries
*Chronic anger
*Poor communications
*Difficulty making decisions
If these characteristics pertain to you or someone close to you who is in a relationship with a substance abuser, you may need to seek professional help. There can be serious implications not only to the family dynamics surrounding co-dependent relationships but also the health of the co-dependent individual if this continues unabated.
Psychiatric professionals can provide behavioural and personal therapy to improve the codependents individual self image and ability to set goals, define needs and draw boundaries. This is vital for a healthier relationship and will in turn make it more likely that both partners can fully recover from the challenges of a codependent, substance abusing relationship.

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