codependent addictionCodependency is a tricky term that is often used in everyday conversation.  Although broader definitions explain the term as a general personality type, one of the original uses of codependency was the idea of a codependent individual having an unhealthy relationship with (often the spouse or child of) an alcoholic or drug addicted person.

A Codependent Personality exhibits several symptoms:

  • A compulsive and unrelenting need to be needed
  • Low self esteem
  • Putting others’ needs first, to the detriment of oneself
  • Deep fear of abandonment and rejection
  • Extreme emotions
  • Strong need for approval or recognition
  • A need to control others
  • Difficulty in adapting to changes and making decisions
  • Passive-aggressive style of communication
  • Poor boundaries and difficulty saying “no”

A person demonstrating a tendency toward codependency will exhibit these symptoms, regardless of whether or not he/she is in a codependent relationship. It is not uncommon to see these patterns emerge across many relationships and settings.  For example, a codependent person may have trouble saying no to a boss, may be preoccupied with needing friends to be happy all of the time, may have trouble telling a parent or partner when she is angry or frustrated and may have extreme difficulties setting limits with his or her child, partner, family or friends.  For a codependent person, these symptoms will be seen across nearly all relationships and over an extended period of time/across a lifespan, unless there is treatment.

A Codependent Relationship can be identified by the following symptoms/patterns:

  • Unhealthy push/pull dynamics,
  • Passive pleasing vs. aggressive demands,
  • A sacrificing of one’s self for a relationship or another’s happiness, and
  • Continuing in a relationship that is not working due to the fact that neither party is willing to give up the security of it

Much of the literature that exists regarding codependency examines the specific dynamic between a codependent and narcissistic personality.  The traits exhibited by these personality types are magnets for each other, creating a balance that, while highly maladaptive and unhealthy, serve to meet the specific emotional needs of each person.   The more the codependent strives to please, caretake and meet the needs of his/her partner, the more the narcissistic individual will take. The narcissistic person needs to be catered to, cared for and put first as much as the codependent needs to care for, please, adore and be approved of.  Once the dynamic is in motion, it becomes highly addictive, and codependency can mirror any other addiction in its compulsive, progressive nature.

As with all addictions, codependency is seen as highly treatable.  The first step is to realize and accept that you are codependent.  Once denial is dealt with and one can come to terms with the maladaptive patterns of codependency, healing can begin and one can learn to seek healthier partners and improve existing strained and unfulfilling relationships with family, friends and loved ones.  12-Step programs such as Codependents Anonymous, Al-anon, Alateen and ACOA (adult children of alcoholics) are extremely helpful for providing the lifelong support and guidance needed to come to terms with and stop acting out the painful patterns and self-denying behaviors associated with codependency.  Codependents tend to be perfectionists and reluctant to ask for help, so if going to meetings is too big a step,  Melody Beattie has written several excellent books on codependency, including Codependent No More.  This can be a good starting point for your healing.

New Hope Recovery Center, Chicago’s premier alcohol and drug addiction facility, offers treatment to those addicted to drugs or alcohol and their families.  Our family programming allows families to see how addiction has impacted the entire family.  We encourage all family members to begin their own journey of healing.

If you or someone you love is affected by addiction, New Hope Recovery Center can help. Contact us at 773-883-3916 or

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center