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The Connection Between Addiction And Codependency: Understanding The Risks


Codependency, as defined by Psych Central, is “characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs.” Codependent relationships can occur between romantic partners, family members, or friends. Codependency is a learned behavior that is often the result of past emotional difficulties and behavioral patterns. 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 of their self-identity. As Sharon Wegscheider-Curse asserts in Understanding Codependency, “signs of codependency include excessive caretaking, controlling, and preoccupation with people and things outside of ourselves.” Additional signs of codependency include any combination of the following examples:

  • Difficulty identifying one’s own feelings.
  • Lacking self-trust.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Challenges communicating in a relationship.
  • Prioritizing the approval of others.
  • Struggling to make decisions in a relationship.
  • Fears of abandonment.
  • Being unhealthily dependent and reliant upon relationships, even at the cost of oneself.
  • Exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others.
  • Obsessive need for external approval.

It is important to note that the negative patterns established in codependent relationships are extremely challenging to correct. Often, individuals may be unaware that they are even engaged in a codependent relationship, which makes shifting the contributing behaviors incredibly arduous. 

Substance Use Disorder

Addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. It is characterized by the American Society of Addiction Medicine as the “inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships and a dysfunctional emotional response.” Addiction encourages the development and reinforcement of harmful patterns and behaviors that corrode relationships. The nature of this disease is all-encompassing, and therefore individuals struggling with an active addiction are inherently more prone to codependency and other harmful relationship habits to satisfy substance cravings and accommodate their addiction. 

Understanding The Risks

Codependency and addiction are strongly linked, with one often leading to the other. Addiction can promote codependent behaviors by creating a dynamic that encourages emotional dependence which increases one’s risk for developing codependent tendencies. Codependent individuals are also at risk of developing substance use disorder, as they may turn to drugs and/ or alcohol to cope with the toxic and unhealthy aspects of being involved in a codependent relationship. Codependency can reinforce a damaging cycle in which the codependent partner cares for and unintentionally enables the loved one’s toxic habits, making it easier for the loved one to maintain the challenging or destructive behaviors.

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. 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 leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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