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Codependency and Addiction: What Treatments are Available?

Codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one partner has tremendous physical and/ or emotional needs and the other partner spends an abundance of his or her time and emotional energy trying to accommodate those needs.

One of the primary characteristics of codependency is one’s compulsive need for seeking the approval of other people and reliance upon how others view them as a defining element to their self-identity. True to its nature, a codependent relationship can lead to unhealthy patterns of enabling detrimental behaviors, which in turn, can perpetuate engaging in damaging activities. A common challenge that occurs in a codependent relationship where addiction is also present is that in efforts to support an individual with addiction, the partner ends up enabling him or her, resulting in continued substance abuse and furthering the unhealthy relationship dynamics. 

codependent couple

Codependency Symptoms

There are several common symptoms and characteristics that can present in an individual that is part of a codependent relationship. These can include any of the following examples:

  • Constant people pleasing behaviors
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of healthy boundaries
  • Constantly caretaking
  • Relationship obsessions

Individuals that exhibit the above symptoms may be involved in a codependent relationship. It is important to note that the negative patterns established in codependent relationships are extremely challenging to correct. More often than not, individuals may be unaware that they are even engaged in a codependent relationship, which makes shifting the contributing behaviors incredibly challenging. 

Codependency in Relation to Addiction

While codependency does not inevitably occur in individuals struggling with addiction, it does have the propensity to affect the loved ones of an individual struggling with addiction. There are several ways both addiction and codependency can simultaneously present. Several examples of different relationships that codependency and addiction can manifest include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Children of individuals who struggle with drugs and/ or alcohol addiction with a parent
  • Partners who are both abusing drugs and/ or alcohol
  • A family member of an individual abusing drugs and/ or alcohol
  • A close friend, or loved one of an individual abusing drugs and/ or alcohol

A codependent partner does not necessarily need to be one’s spouse or life partner. In some situations codependent relationships can develop between parents and children. For example, this dynamic can occur when a parent struggles with addiction as a child feels the need to assume the role of caretaker. 


When considering treatment for substance abuse and/ or addiction it is essential to take into consideration one’s codependent relationship. Locate a treatment program that is capable of providing guidance and assistance to both partners in the codependent relationship. Including one’s family members in his or her treatment plan can help assure unhealthy patterns be shifted and provide tools to help modify codependent behaviors moving forward. 

In cases of severe codependency, it may behoove both members of the relationship to seek their own treatment programs. Mental health professionals can assist in recovery through the use of various behavioral therapeutic modalities. Participating in, and committing to treatment can help an individual build his or her self-esteem, and address other aforementioned symptoms, diminishing the need for relying upon others for validation and self worth. Additionally, a tailored treatment plan that focuses on both one’s substance use disorder, while simultaneously providing skills and tools to improve one’s codependent tendencies can help the individual develop a stronger sense of self-worth that will serve him or her far beyond the completion of the treatment program. Working on establishing healthy boundaries can also help an individual learn to foster healthier relationships and experience deeper emotional intimacy. 

addiction rates by gender

Further Information

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous.

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. 

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