The Leading Expert in Treatment for Alcohol and Substance Abuse
and Founder of The Hills Treatment Center

Codependency or enmeshment is when two people become unhealthily involved to the point that the boundaries between them are not clear. A good definition of codependency is "I don't know where you end and I begin". People suffering from codependency can exhibit unhealthy obsessions with care giving, often ignoring their own needs and wants. Codependent relationships share many characteristics with addictive relationships. The two people often become obsessed with their relationship. This means people may assign magical qualities to the other person, thinking that they will solve all of their problems. The codependent will often stay in harmful situations in order to avoid conflict or confrontation, hoping that it will all get better. Other signs of a codependency include: minimizing feelings, compromise values to avoid rejection, inability to recognize their feelings, feelings of loneliness or abandonment, and difficulty making decisions.

Codependency has many detrimental effects on the two involved individuals. The codependent may spend money on other even if it's beyond their means, in an attempt to gain approval. They will find themselves in unhealthy or abusive relationships because they are "addicted" to a particular person. The codependent may feel overextended and stressed as they go well beyond their means to meet the approval of others. Often they find themselves unable to escape in these situations. They cannot get out of the relationship because they don't know how to function on their own. They don't know what to feel, think, or say without the guidance of their partner.

Codependency is not is not limited to romantic relationships, and is also displayed with coworkers, family, and friends. As a result codependents suffer in many areas of their life. The codependent will often take social cues from other people. They will wait to say how they feel until they know how everyone else in the room feels. They will not say anything controversial and often are overly clingy and overly involved in other peoples' lives. However, they suffer from the belief that the other person needs them just as much. Codependents suffer consequences as a result of their thinking and actions. Some develop drinking or drug problems and others choose to self-harm. Many codependents have social anxiety, panic disorders and depression.

Some codependents develop this behavior in their childhood as a result of family values they have grown up with. A family member that encourages perfection or the need to be "good" or ideal may contribute to codependency later in life. Also, parents who are overly involved with their child's life may inspire codependent tendencies. Parents like this often have trouble letting go of their children or giving them room to grow and be their own person, as a result there can be an entirely codependent family. Some family members may have stressed to avoid talking about feelings making the codependent may feel unjustifiably selfish or imposing.

Treatment for codependency can be found in therapy, self help books or twelve-step Meetings. CoDa and Al-Anon are groups that some codependents can attend so they can talk with others affected by the disorder. Recovery from codependency begins with the self. Recovery from codependency can be practice assertiveness and communication so that the codependent may have healthy relationships.

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