People can become addicted to any number of substances or behaviors, including drugs, gambling, sex and food, but can you become addicted to another person? In some sense, yes – it’s called codependency, and it can be extremely damaging to both individuals.
Codependency can arise in any type of relationship, but we most commonly think of the addict and their highly enmeshed spouse or partner. By denying the existence of a problem, trying to control the addict’s drug use or rescuing them from the consequences of their actions, the partner enables the addiction. The partner feels needed and the addict feels justified in maintaining their drug habit. It’s a win-win that actually ends up being lose-lose.
Where do we learn codependent behaviors? Most people learn them from their role models growing up, especially if they were raised in an addicted or dysfunctional home. For example, children of alcoholics are up to four times more likely to become addicts themselves, and about half go on to marry an addict and duplicate the addict/codependent model they saw in their parents. Others may suffer traumatic experiences early in life, which contribute to low self-esteem, a fear of abandonment and other codependent traits.
Since enmeshment is the only way they know how to be in a relationship, few people recognize their own codependent patterns, instead labeling themselves selfless or “too nice.” All they know is that they have a pattern of unstable, one-sided and in some cases abusive relationships. Here are a few additional signs that you may be in a codependent relationship:
#1 Taking Responsibility for Others
People who struggle with codependency feel a heightened sense of responsibility for the thoughts, needs and decisions of others, as well as their ultimate satisfaction in life. Often in a controlling or manipulative way, they try to solve other people’s problems and offer unsolicited advice, doing far more than their share to ensure the individual’s happiness.
Although their efforts may at first seem noble, they are in fact driven by the codependent’s need to feel needed. Serving others, often to the exclusion of their own needs and desires…
Read more: David Sack MD, Psych Central