How Do Codependent Behaviors Develop?

Your partner or family member has finally gotten into treatment for substance abuse issues — congratulations! Right about now you must be wondering why you keep hearing about codependent behaviors. Isn’t your partner’s use of alcohol or drugs the issue here? Codependent behaviors are the “behind-the-scenes” ways in which a partner, parent, boss or another person close to the addict or alcoholic supports the addiction. This support is never meant to cause harm to anyone, and always aimed at trying to keep everyone as happy and functional as possible. But by “covering” for the person using substances, you end up getting wrapped up in the addiction process. Learning about codependent behaviors can help you and your family overcome addiction together.

What Are Codependent Behaviors?

  • Some people call it “people-pleasing” while others might call it “doormat syndrome.” You bend over backward to try to make those around you feel happy, often at your own expense.
  • You will compromise your own integrity, doing things you don’t approve of, in order to gain love or approval from another person.
  • You feel responsible for other people’s behavior.
  • You feel like you need relationships, and panic at the thought of abandonment.

To sum it up, while the addicted person becomes dependent upon the substance he or she uses, you become dependent upon the user.

How Do Codependent Behaviors Develop?

Codependency usually begins in childhood. Growing up in a home affected by trauma — physical or mental illness of a parent, the death of a parent, or perhaps a parent struggling with addiction — children develop coping mechanisms and behaviors that tend to stay with them into adulthood. Being a “pleasing” child can be an excellent strategy for helping to keep a stressful home environment from erupting. Being helpful and well-behaved was probably the best way to get your needs met at that time. But carrying those behaviors into adulthood ended up being problematic. Part of learning how to overcome addiction and end codependency involves changing those codependent behaviors. As your partner or loved one learns strategies and coping skills for living without substances, you can learn how to let go of codependent behaviors and develop new ways of relating to your partner. It isn’t easy, but with the support of a therapist and self-help groups like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, you can shed those old behaviors and grow into a new self that no longer needs them.   Resources:

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