At the Rites of Passage Ranch Long Term Care Program we recognize that families can have their lives turned upside down by substance abuse or behavioral disorders. Families can feel that ‘the world revolves around’ that issue.
The term codependency has been around for several decades. Originally it was only used for spouses of alcoholics, however research has shown that the traits of codependents are very common in the general population also. In fact, they discovered that it’s very likely a person will be codependent if they were brought up in a dysfunctional family or had a parent who was ill. That describes A LOT of people! Codependency means that a person makes a relationship more important to them than they are to themselves.
Some common characteristics include:
- People-pleasing.Co-dependents have a hard time saying ‘No’ as it causes them anxiety. They feel that they don’t have a choice other than to accommodate other people even if it means sacrificing their own needs.
- Poor boundaries. A boundary is a definite line where one person’s responsibility ends and another person’s begins. When a person has destructive behaviors codependents try to rescue them from the consequences thus preventing the person from experiences they need in order to grow. Codependents especially get in trouble as they feel responsible for the other person’s feelings and problems or place the blame of their own in somebody else.
- Low self-esteem. The person may compare themselves to others or feel they are not good enough. This may be disguised by what appears to be the person thinking highly of themselves when deep down they feel inadequate and unlovable. Feelings of shame and guilt are also usually present, and perfectionism; the person feels better about themselves if everything is perfect.
- Reactivity.A codependent reacts to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. Is somebody says something that the codependent disagrees with they either absorb that opinion or get very defensive.
- Problems communicating.Codependents have difficulties when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs often because they don’t truly know what they think, feel, or need. Alternatively, they may know but are too afraid of upsetting somebody else and so are not truthful.
- Problems with intimacy.Codependents may find it difficult to be open and honest making it hard for them for nurture close relationships. They may fear being judged or rejected. The problem may also be a result of too rigid boundaries where the codependent won’t ‘let anyone in’ they seem closed off and withdrawn.
- Caretaking.Another side effect of poor boundaries, the codependent gives up their own needs in order to help the other person. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but the codependent feels an overly strong need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t it. Additionally they continue to try fix the other person, even when that person isn’t taking their advice.
- Control. This makes codependents feel safe and secure however excessive control limits the codependents ability to take risks or share their feelings. Controlling other people is a common trait which over result is manipulation of others. They may exhibit addictions like substance abuse, that loosens them up, or like workaholism, that helps keep their feelings down, so that they feel more in control.
- Obsessions. This can be about people or relationships, it can be about a ‘mistake’ they think they have made, or a fantasy world where they try to avoid the pain of the present.
- Dependency.In order to feel alright about themselves codependents need others to like them. They fear rejection or abandonment. They may stay in an unhealthy relationship as they may feel depressed or lonely when they are on their own too long. This ends up making them feel trapped.
- Denial.Codependents deny they have an issue, meaning they don’t face the problem often blaming someone else for their situation. They also deny their feelings or needs.
- Painful emotions.These include anxiety, depression, anger and resentment, hopelessness. Quite often the feelings are overwhelming and the person just feels numb.
Research has found that codependent symptoms got worse if left untreated. The good news is that they are reversible. Total recovery takes time. Here at the Rites of Passage Ranch Long Term Care Program we have patient and nurturing staff to help families affected by codependency develop the communication and life skills needed to move towards more healthy boundaries and relationships.