How Codependency Resembles a Relationship Addiction

GoodTherapy Blog

The term “codependent” is used loosely. A quick Google search on the term turns up a Huffington Post article titled “NBC and Brian Williams Put Codependent Relationship on Hold” and BuzzFeed’s “8 Important Facts About Always Giving Too Much Of Yourself In Relationships.” Although these articles are entertaining and certainly fall in line with an underlying cultural obsession to self-diagnose, the reality is that codependency is a complicated, multidimensional behavioral issue.

Codependency is a condition in which individuals attempt to and believe that if they control people, places, and situations, they can derive a sense of self-worth. It resembles an addiction to taking care of the needs and the problems of another person. In fact, many of the people I’ve worked with who are in these types of codependent relationships find themselves feeling, in many cases, what can be described as classic signs of addiction. Some of the experiences they report include:

  • Changes in their personality as reported by friends and family
  • Negative emotions
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Lack of motivation or lethargy
  • Anxious or paranoid thinking with no obvious reason

After ruling out that a person is abusing substances, such as alcohol or drugs, and determining that his or her symptoms are not signs of other emotional or mental health issues, I find what they are experiencing is, in fact, chronic, progressive, and relapsing addiction. In effect, many who are in codependent relationships simply become dependent on the people with whom they are in a relationship. Read More…