Virginia Satir, a key figure in family systems theory, studied more than 10,000 families and discovered that 96 percent of them exhibited codependent thoughts or behaviors.
“The more current definition of codependency includes many behaviors, not just enabling” (…) “It is based on compulsively deferring to others to direct what you will do or say, or not do or not say — as opposed to checking in with one’s own feelings — to direct one’s words or actions.”
Manifestations of Codependency
Codependency can manifest itself in many forms. You may be a controller, fixer, caretaker, mediator, enabler, rescuer, martyr or victim. Within any of these roles or combination thereof, there are cues that you may have codependency issues:
• Your focus is on pleasing others instead of yourself
• Your self-esteem is boosted by trying to solve another person’s problems
• You try to manipulate others
• You are more aware of how others feel instead of how you feel
• You have a fear of rejection
• You value the opinions of others more than your own
• You feel good about yourself only when you receive approval from and are accepted by others
• You set aside your own values to feel more connected with another person
• Your personal appearance is directed toward gaining another’s approval
• You lack healthy boundaries
Codependency and Substance Abuse
Many people who struggle with codependency issues also struggle with substance abuse or addiction. People who function in a codependent role often have core needs that are not being met, and choose to fill that void with drugs or alcohol.
“Substance abuse is often mistakenly seen as an antidote to codependent tendencies,” Mitchell said. And it’s not just substance abusers who are at a high risk for codependency. On its website, the Florida Drug & Alcohol Abuse Association (FDAAA) lists others who are likely to be struggling with codependent tendencies:
• Spouses of substance abusers
• People who are recovering from substance abuse
• Adult children of alcoholics
• Professionals who work with addicted persons
The FDAAA website notes that treating the family of the substance abuser is just as important as treating the user:
Traditionally, the focus in treatment for those with substance abuse problems has been on the substance abuser, not on the family members surrounding him. Treatment professionals did not realize that the substance abuser had a profound effect on family members and others who often developed problems and unhealthy behavior patterns of their own as a reaction to the substance abuser.
Not until alcoholism became recognized as a disease did treatment begin to address the problems of the whole family and its individual members, not just those of the substance abuser.
The degree to which any of the codependent patterns listed above interfere with your ability to achieve healthy balance in your life may require you to seek inpatient or outpatient treatment.
“Once codependency issues are addressed, you will have an expanded awareness of self, and have other behavioral options from which to choose instead of being locked into old, familiar limitations of codependency,” he said.
Codependency issues are usually treated through individual, family and group therapy. Through talk therapy, you can identify which form (or forms) of codependency you have, and can trace them back to understand their origins. In many instances, codependency issues are related to family dysfunction, abusive or traumatic experiences, or teenage “peer pressure.”
Getting to the root of your codependency can help you in establishing healthy communication and behaviors. Doing that can allow you to learn to set healthy boundaries, be accountable, express love, express clean confrontations, and know how and when to share appreciations and gratitude.
A residential treatment center (…) can help you address codependency issues, as well as co-occurring substance abuse, addiction or family issues that may be playing a role in your codependency (…)
Recovery requires the codependent person to stop focusing externally on other people, substances or relationships and begin to focus internally on his or her own feelings, desires, needs and goals.