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Group 401

What is Co-Dependency?

Family members who live in the shadow of someone afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence may themselves suffer from something called co-dependency as they assume the role of caretaker for their addicted loved one. This mental health disorder is defined by a group of symptoms including denial of feelings, perfectionism, fear and dishonesty. Anyone living in a dysfunctional family situation can become co-dependent.

In a co-dependent situation, attention and energy is focused on the family member who is ill or addicted. Co-dependency is typically characterized by the desire to be loved by the addicted person to the point of neglecting one’s own needs. Problems arise when the co-dependent person places other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own.

They can ultimately lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self. They can feel confused, angry, inadequate or guilty. Mental Health America says co-dependence occurs because dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems, such as addiction, exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become “survivors”. They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions.

“The first step in changing these behaviors is to understand them,” states Brenda John-Banach, LMSW, CASAC, Vice President of Outpatient Operations. “Our highly trained counselors work with the individuals experiencing symptoms of co-dependency and their family to educate them about the course and cycle of addiction and how it extends into their relationships.”

Hope lies in learning more. The better someone understands co-dependency the better that person can cope with its effects. Horizon works with individuals who are co-dependent to teach them how to be better in touch with their own emotions and how to take care of themselves first.

Reaching out for information and assistance can help someone live a healthier, more fulfilling life.  If you or someone you know would like to speak with one of our dedicated and caring counselors, please give our Admissions department a call at 716.831.1800.

Still wondering if you or someone you know is co-dependent?  Use this co-dependency checklist to find out.