Relying on friends, family and loved ones is a natural part of any relationship. In these relationships, you can usually rely on your partner for emotional or other kinds of support when you need it, and they, in turn, can rely on you while you both maintain healthy independence. However, you may find yourself in a relationship where your desire to be cared for exceeds reasonable limits, where you feel unable to care for yourself and where you succumb to the unreasonable demands of others to be cared for in return.
For example, you may find it difficult or feel unable to make decisions even about mundane issues on your own, requiring a significant other in your life to direct you or make these decisions for you, thus losing your autonomy and sense of control over your life in the process. You also may agree with decisions or go along with situations that you would not otherwise because you do not want to upset others, receive their disapproval or jeopardize the support they give you. You may even allow others to determine major life choices for you and determine who you should socialize with, what job you should take or what educational path to follow.
This loss of control and feeling of overwhelming dependence on others can cause a great deal of emotional, psychological and even physical pain as you deal with the constant fear and stress of being abandoned or rejected by your caregivers. To cope, you may turn to drugs or alcohol to manage the negative symptoms produced by your co-dependency and the depression you might also feel. However, many substances can increase your feelings of distress, hopelessness and loss of control as well as add new symptoms to deal with. Substance use also invites addiction. If you suffer from co-dependency and addiction, a holistic treatment program that treats your mental health and any substance use issues you have in a comprehensive and holistic way will give you the surest path to achieving both psychological well-being and sobriety.
SYMPTOMS OF CO-DEPENDENCY
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders identifies a single criterion for the diagnosis of a co-dependency disorder, but this criterion has many individual features. A co-dependency diagnosis requires “an excessive and pervasive need to be taken care of [and] submissive, clinging, needy behavior due to fear of abandonment.” This core criterion expresses itself in many forms, and you must experience at least five of the following indicators for a co-dependency diagnosis:
- difficulty or inability to make routine decisions without input, advice or approval from others
- requiring others to take responsibility for your issues and concerns
- fear of disagreeing with others and receiving their disapproval
- difficulty beginning projects without others’ help
- excessive need for nurturance and support from others and allowing others to impose themselves on you out of fear of rejection or disapproval
- feelings of vulnerability and helplessness when alone
- a desperate need to seek or begin a new relationship as soon as a prior one has ended
- unrealistic preoccupation with being left alone and fear of being unable to care for oneself
Co-dependency must exhibit traits that go beyond what is appropriate in situations where dependence will naturally occur. For example, if you have a serious health issue and must rely on others for physical care, this does not qualify as co-dependency unless your need for support far exceeds what your medical situation requires and causes you significant additional distress.
WHY IT IS DIFFICULT TO TREAT CO-DEPENDENCY AND ADDICTION
If you suffer from co-dependency, you will likely also from several other negative characteristics associated with the disease, such as extreme pessimism, low self-esteem or feelings of low self-worth. You might denigrate yourself, believing that your excessive desire for support indicates a lack of ability or a personal failure. In fact, many individuals who suffer from co-dependency can function well independently if they feel “supervised” and can perform most of the tasks they rely on others to fulfill.
Low self-esteem and feelings of loss of control or helplessness invite substance use and will eventually lead to addiction which adds additional emotional, psychological and physical symptoms to those you currently already endure. If you are experiencing co-dependency symptoms, use of any substance will increase their frequency or severity, and the presence of more symptoms means you will want or need to use more to manage them. This vicious cycle increases the severity of both of the problems you suffer from, in addition to masking an accurate diagnosis of your underlying issues and delaying critical treatment.
If you are suffering from both co-dependency and issues related to substance use you will require a medically-supervised detox to ensure you end your chemical dependency and drug cravings. You will also need addiction and mental health treatment afterward. Attempting to treat these symptoms on your own could lead to a relapse and overdose or else lengthen your symptoms from both conditions. On-going drug or alcohol abuse will also undermine any addiction or mental treatment you would receive. Co-dependency and addition require a holistic recovery treatment plan and continuum of care.
HOW A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO CO-DEPENDENCY AND ADDICTION CAN MAKE IT EASIER TO BREAK FREE
Co-dependency and addiction individually present complex problems to solve. A variety of factors contribute to each illness, and these factors differ from individual to individual. Every individual and addiction is unique. When you experience co-dependency along with issues stemming from substance use, the interactions between the two conditions make treatment even more challenging. Only a holistic approach which looks at every facet which contributes to both problems — inherited traits, your personal history and social factors — can give you confidence in finding solutions that will work for you and provide long-lasting wellness and sobriety.
This treatment begins with tackling your substance abuse which will always exacerbate the other symptoms you suffer from, delay critical treatment and compromise the effectiveness of the behavioral and psychiatric treatment you might receive. A compassionate treatment environment will help ensure you complete this critical stage of recovery. Individualized treatment will give you tested and proven techniques to maintain your sobriety, to begin recognizing your inherent abilities and to practice living free of dependency.
Serenity Oaks Recovery Center will treat you like a person first rather than a patient, and you will quickly begin to see your struggle with co-dependency and addition not as inherent flaws but as illnesses which, with proper treatment and support, you can overcome. The Serenity Oaks Wellness Center’s experienced and compassionate staff want to help you achieve the wellness and sobriety you deserve and be a friend to you in the process along the way.