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Codependency Information

  • A "codependent" is loosely defined as someone who exhibits too much, and often inappropriate, caring for other people's struggles...
  • Codependency advocates claim a codependent may try to change, or feel shame about their most private thoughts and feelings if they conflict with this person's struggle. A classic example would be a wife making excuses for a husband's excessive drinking and perhaps running interference for him by doing things such as calling in sick for him when he is hung over. Such behaviors, which may well lessen conflict and ease tension within the family in the short term, are counterproductive in the long term, since, in this case, the wife is actually supporting ("enabling") the husband's drinking behavior. So, sometimes, the "co-dependent" (on alcohol, in this case) is sometimes referred to as an "enabler". It is also worth noting that since the wife in this case is dependent on the husband's alcoholic behavior, she may actually feel disturbed, disoriented or threatened if she sees clearly that he is emerging from his dependence. If she were to feel those feelings, her position as a confidant and loved-one might enable her to exert pressure to "change back", for the husband to cease making progress away from alcoholic dependency. Such pressure might be real and at least partially effective without it being fully recognized by either the husband or the wife.

    Codependence can also be a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing great emotional pain and stress caused, for example, by a family member's alcoholism or other addiction, sexual or other abuse within the family, a family members' chronic illness, or forces external to the family, such as poverty.

    Codependency advocates claim as adults, codependent people have a greater tendency to get involved in relationships with people who are perhaps unreliable, emotionally unavailable, or needy. The codependent person tries to provide and control everything within the relationship without addressing their own needs or desires, they set themselves up for continued unfulfillment.

    Symptoms of codependence are: controlling behavior, distrust, perfectionism, avoidance of feelings, intimacy problems, caretaking behavior, hypervigilance or physical illness related to stress. Codependence is often accompanied by depression, as the codependent person succumbs to feelings of extreme frustration or sadness over his or her inability to make changes in the other person's (or persons') life. Individuals who are suffering from codependence may seek assistance through various verbal therapies, sometimes accompanied by chemical therapy for accompanying depression. In addition, there exist support groups for codependency; some of these are Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) and Al-Anon/Alateen, both of which are based on the 12-Step model created by Alcoholics Anonymous.

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