Why Families of Addicts Should Seek Counseling for Codependency

Posted in Help for Friends and Family

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that substance abuse within the United States racks up an annual cost of $700 billion. This figure is based on the understanding that addiction-related medical costs only account for a portion of the financial toll. Related issues (such as decreased productivity in the work environment and criminal management activity) also put a heavy weight on economic resources1. In short, the drug abuse epidemic devastates the nation’s finances, but families are just as affected by addiction, as parents, siblings and loved ones often end up emotionally and mentally scarred from this terror. Seek help to address addiction and the behaviors that encourage it, such as codependency.

When Support Becomes a Problem

Out of concern for an addicted family member, many people sacrifice their personal comforts and rights to support a loved one. However, most family members who are close with an addict have a health risk of their own to address, codependency. In fact, according to one NIDA report, up to 80% of mothers with addicted children suffer from this condition in some degree2. This condition may be difficult to detect, but it grows worse with time if ignored.

Codependency often stems from good motives; in fact, people often intend their behavior to be good, but they often end up hurting the addict. For instance, someone who shows codependent behavior often feels that he is fulfilling his obligation, so he fails to see his own actions as negative. While operating codependently, one’s ability to help an addict is actually impaired rather than increased, even in view of the extra energy he may dedicate to helping. However, because codependency stems from learned behavior, the effects of codependency are completely reversible.

Codependency – Who Is at Risk?

Desiree Molina, author of the NIDA report mentioned above, states that “identification of individuals who are codependent is an important step in assisting them to engage in therapy and become a healthy support for drug abusers in treatment.” In other words, to overcome codependency, you must first see that you are prone to it. To that end, age and gender play no factor in dependency, but education levels do: people of any age and gender can become codependent, but, when someone has even higher education, she has a lower risk of this problem.

So, how can you identify codependency? Anyone with an addicted family member is at risk for this behavior. The characteristics of codependency are broad, so it is not a diagnosable mental health condition. Furthermore, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, all characteristics need not be present to show codependent behaviors in a relationship, but treatment is more effective when patients identify their symptoms3.

Identifying Characteristics of Codependency

Perfectionism commonly affects codependent relationships. While one person suffers the lows of addiction, another may strive to achieve excellence in all regards to cover her low self-esteem. For instance, if one family member is an addict, then she may project negative emotions onto her loved ones, which means she may seem more and more difficult to please. In response, a codependent relative may strive to overachieve for approval. His actions may center upon pleasing his loved one, so refusing a request may seem both impossible and feared. In short, the lines blur between opinions and self-esteem—codependent relatives may feel inclined to react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings, they may feel incapable to discard opinions and take someone else’s thoughts as definitions of their person.

The most notable quality of a codependent individual is that he helps people to the point of injuring himself. He may believe that trying to build his own self-esteem is a cause for guilt, perhaps because he thinks he is unworthy of the time, energy or attention required to do so. Furthermore, he may crave the care of another person, yet consistently strive to conceal this fact. His honesty may disappear, and he may struggle to maintain a circle of supportive friends as he hides his own needs (this case is particularly common when one spouse is an addict and abusive).

There is a stark contrast between a compassionate disposition and the personality that seeks to fix people. While relapse is common in addiction recovery and support from family and friends is indispensable, lying to cover someone’s addiction is a sure sign that something is wrong, as is spending an inordinate amount of energy and time to help someone else’s health. Seek help for these problems.

Identify and Address Codependency

Why does codependency develop? One reason is sincere interest in the welfare of others, an excellent quality that can serve people well when they channel it correctly. However, you will end up damaging yourself if you lose your personal balance to the point of being emotionally controlled by the addict’s behavior. In fact, codependent individuals confuse the joy of giving for what is really a fear of being left unneeded, alone or disapproved. Rather than help loved ones into recovery, they often find that the long-term result is social withdrawal and seclusion.

Some critics claim that the codependency therapy model may estrange family members from addicted loved ones, but the opposite is true4. In other words, therapy will monitor family members who are concerned about an addict loved one to ensure they offer the best help possible. Consider a quick, confidential analysis for codependency to help yourself and your family. Take advantage of these resources today by calling our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now.


1 http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics. Retrieved November 20, 2015.

2 http://www.drugabuse.gov/international/abstracts/codependency-drug-abusers-mothers. Retrieved November 20, 2015.

3 https://www.foh.hhs.gov/eapnews/consortium/codependence.html. Retrieved November 20, 2015.

4 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7992137. Retrieved November 20, 2015.