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CoDependency is a term we throw around a lot, but the definition can be somewhat elusive.  In this presentation we will examine the characteristics of someone with codependency; compare and contrast codependency with other addictions and propose avenues for interventions.

CEU On-Demand Course

Show Notes

Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC, NCC
Executive Director,
Define codependency
Identify characteristics of the codependent relationship
Explore the motivations for these behaviors
Hypothesize alternate, healthier behaviors

Why I Care/How It Impacts Recovery
Co-dependency can serve as an alternate addiction or distraction
Co-Dependents may use relationships to try to deal with depression or anxiety
Ultimately codependency is self-defeating because one of the few things that cannot be controlled is the will of another person.
Codependency describes a type of relationship in which
One partner defines his or her worth or goodness based on someone else
The codependent person often chooses relationships in which the other person needs to be rescued, thereby making himself or herself indispensable.

The Mantras
“I don’t understand why she refuses to change.  I have done everything for her.”

“Helping someone who doesn’t want help is an exercise in futility, but what are you supposed to do if you don’t help?”
Co-Dependency as an Addiction
Need more of the same substance/activity
In a codependent relationship, as time passes, the codependent’s identity becomes increasingly defined by the relationship with the other person
Not getting the substance, being around the person results in physical or psychological withdrawals
When apart from or unable to control the other person, the codependent experiences extreme anxiety and/or depression

Co-Dependency as an Addiction
Spending more time thinking about, engaging in or recovering from the behavior
Co-dependents are always hypervigilant to other peoples behavior, and obsessing about what they are or are not doing
Co-dependents spend large amounts of time rescuing or covering up for the other person  “fixing it”
The codependent gets exhausted taking care of the other person, but cannot stop because they rely on the other person to tell them

Co-Dependency as an Addiction
Foregoing other interests in order to maintain the addiction
The relationship is the “drug” of choice in the codependents’ lives
Having that person in their life makes them feel “okay” or “whole”
The relationship takes the place of self-love
Co-Dependency as an Addiction
Continuing the addiction/relationship despite negative consequences
Emotional (depression, anxiety, anger, resentment)
Social (Loss of other friends)
Physical (stress-related physical issues)
Occupational (poor job performance)

Addicts and Codependents
Low self esteem
Depression, anxiety
Need to control
Fear of abandonment
Relationship comforts/numbs
Relationship becomes the addict’s primary focus
Minimizing, denying, blaming to protect the relationship
Stinkin’ Thinkin’

Have difficulty identifying what they are feeling.
Lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
Mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
Experience significant aggression/resentment and negativity

Have difficulty making decisions.
Judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough.
Value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own.
Do not perceive themselves as lovable or worthwhile persons
Seek recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than.
Have difficulty admitting a mistake.
Need to appear to be right, and may even lie to look good.
Are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want.
Have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries.

Believe people are incapable of self-care
Try to convince others what to think or feel.
Offer unsolicited advice and direction
Become resentful when their help is rejected
Lavish gifts, favors or sexual attention on those they want to influence.
Demand that their needs be met by others.

Use blame and shame to control.
Adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
Use recovery jargon in an attempt to control the behavior of others.
Pretend to agree with others to get what they want.

Identify the benefits and drawbacks to the relationship AND the benefits and drawbacks to being single
Remember that codependency, like other addictions is used to escape, distract or avoid pain.
Begin self-esteem work (There are a myriad of books and worksheets available)
Until the person can provide self-validation, all relationships can potentially become codependent

Apply It
Identify 3 ways you could have used this information in the past week.
What was the situation?
What did you do?
How effective was that for you?
Short term
Long Term
If you would have had this new information, what could you have done differently?
How would that have changed the outcome?
How can you start integrating this knowledge into your routine
Codependents generally get in relationships with addicts or others who need to be “rescued.”
This need to rescue (be indispensable) often stems from:
Not feeling good enough (low self-esteem, need for external validation)
Fear of abandonment
Codependents do not feel worthy or lovable.  They need someone else to validate them
The codependent derives his or her “goodness” from the success or failure of the other person in the relationship.
Recovery involves
Developing a sense of self-worth
Addressing the issues that are causing depression and anxiety
Grief over prior lost relationships
Helplessness to change another person
Fears of rejection, isolation, failure, loss of control and the unknown
Learning about and creating a network of healthy relationships with self and others
Setting healthy boundaries
Learning to accept multiple perspectives

More Information and Resources

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Pinterest: drsnipes
Podcast: Counselor Toolbox available in iTunes, Google Music, Stitcher and many more.

Nurses, addiction and mental health counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists can earn continuing education credits (CEs) for this and other course at