When you love someone, it’s only natural to want them to be happy. Especially when it’s your son or significant other. So you might give them your emotional support, encouragement, time, or expertise to support their growth and well-being. These are healthy relationships as long as both people do this. But if a relationship is codependent then your efforts to help someone often comes at the expense of your financial, emotional, social, or vocational growth and well-being. 


Codependency Symptoms:  Are you addicted to your child or partner? 

Codependency is not a brain disorder but it is an addiction. Not to a substance but to a person. And like any addiction, codependency includes a persistent and uncontrollable compulsion to act in ways that hurt you and the people you love just like people in active addiction. The easiest way to understand this is to see how some of the symptoms, behaviors, and feelings of codependency are similar to addiction. 

Symptoms: Physical or emotional symptoms of codependency and addiction include:

  • Increased tolerance: More drugs or alcohol are required to produce the same effect; AND more toxic behavior is required to produce a negative reaction from codependents compared to before. 
        • Addiction: I have to drink twice as much as I used to get drunk
        • Codependent: I used to get upset when he yelled at me, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. 
  • Loss of Control: A person tries and fails to control how much they drink or do drugs; AND a codependent tries and fails to control their behavior towards the person.
        • Addiction: I only intended to have 1 drink, but I drank so much I blacked out. 
        • Codependent: I said I’d kick him out if he came home drunk, but I ended up apologizing instead. 

  • Denial: A person denies their problem by rationalizing  their actions.
        • Addiction: Everybody drinks, I don’t have a problem. Without alcohol, I can’t be social.
        • Codependent: I am helping him, he needs me. Without me, he would lose his job. Things will get better. 

  • Craving: A person feels a deep physical and mental need to use substances; AND a codependent feels a deep mental longing for the person.  
        • Addiction: My body aches if I go too long without a drink. All I can think about is going home and getting drunk. 
        • Codependent: He’s all I think about. When he’s not around I ache for him. 

  • Compulsive Behavior: A person uses substances compulsively despite the consequences it creates in their lives; AND a codependent feels compelled to act irrationally despite consequences it might create for themselves.
      • Addiction: I told myself I wasn’t going to drink but I ended up stealing money to buy alcohol.
      • Codependent: I went through his phone, I ate to make myself feel better, I left work early to go get him something. 

See the full list of symptoms here

Behaviors: Some actions common for addiction and codependency are: 

  • Minimizing: A person downplays the consequences of their actions; AND a codependent downplays the negative influence of this person  
        • Addiction: Drinking has barely affected my job. Things are fine. 
        • Codependent: I’ve lost a lot of my friends but now I have time for the people who matter. Things are fine.

  • Sneaking/Lying: A person lies about the true nature of their addiction so that they can continue using. AND a codependent lies to others to enable the person’s behavior and/or their own.
        • Addiction: I lied about spending the night at a friend’s house (or working late) so that I could go drinking without anyone knowing. 
        • Codependent: He was too drunk to go to work so I called his boss and lied for him. I lie to my friends about how much time we spend together. 

  • Hiding and secrets: A person hides their substance use to avoid shame or intervention. AND a codependent keeps things about the person secret to avoid shame. 
        • Addiction: My mom thinks I am doing so well. I hope she doesn’t find my drugs.
        • Codependent: He was doing so well last week. I hope nobody finds out he blacked out last night. 

  • Euphoric Recall: A person romanticizes the feeling of using drugs or alcohol. AND a codependent romanticizes the feelings back when things were better rather than focusing on how things are. 
      • Addiction: I would love to feel that way again. 
      • Codependent: I miss the way things used to be with us. 
See the full list of behaviors here 

Feelings: Some emotions caused by addiction and codependency are:

  • Sadness
  • Disappointment
  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Shame

    Codependency Recovery

    Recovery from codependency begins with educating yourself on the symptoms of codependency, recognizing them in your life, and admitting that you’re in a codependent relationship. Once you’ve admitted to yourself that this is not normal, you need to enlist help from a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) who can help you maintain healthy habits. This is especially important for people like your son who have a permanent place in your life.

    • Education: Above are some common symptoms for codependency. For a full list click here.
    • Recognition: Click here for a free comprehensive quiz on recognizing codependency in your relationship. 
    • Acceptance: Is as simple as saying aloud: “This is not normal and I am not okay” 
    • Get Help: Find a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. 
    If you’re interested in codependency counseling, call us today 855-202-2138. 

    Codependency Counseling:

     Codependent behaviors can often feel natural or even positive because you believe you’re helping someone. This is why going to counseling is so important. Trained counselors can help you understand the difference between affection and codependent behaviors. As a parent, it is also critical to learn how to set and keep strong boundaries with your child so that codependent behaviors don’t resume. 

    Benefits of Counseling for Codependency: 

    If you’ve helped someone for so long it can feel difficult to watch them struggle as you take a step back from their life. A counselor can help you navigate through this struggle while also focusing on your healing.

    Main Benefits:

    • Better for the person you love: Once you stop enabling someone they must either become more independent or start their own recovery since they can’t rely on your help. 
    • You learn to put yourself first: Codependency often comes from low self-value. Once you understand why and address this, you can maintain healthy relationships. Click here to read more about self-care. 
    • Better Communication Skills: How to respond rather than react, how to say what you want or feel, deal with rejection, or ways to feel okay saying no.

    Other Benefits:

    • Higher self-esteem.
    • Less fear of rejection or criticism
    • More life satisfaction
    • Lower stress
    • Healthier/larger social circle


    Codependency Worksheets:

    Books are a great help when addressing codependency, but they can take time to get and read. If you want to start working on your codependency right now, here is a useful worksheet.

    Evaluating Codependence:

    This worksheet will help you or a family member identify codependent behaviors and talk through examples of different codependent symptoms,  behaviors, or feelings.

    Diagnosing Codependence: 

    This PDF contains a clinical Codependency Assessment created in a peer-reviewed study outlining the criteria for codependence  (Friel 1985; Friel & Friel 1987). 

    Do You Want To Start Feeling Better?: 

    If you are struggling with codependency, call us today at 855-202-2138. Our family therapy program uses trained addiction counselors who are licensed marriage and family therapists. 


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