Recognizing Codependency In Families With Addiction

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on December 29, 2021

Codependent tendencies are common among people with substance use disorder and their family members. Recognizing codependency is one way in which family members can begin to overcome and heal from the effects of a dysfunctional personal relationship.

Recognizing Codependent Relationships In Those Struggling With Addiction

Substance abuse can affect all aspects of life, from a person’s physical and mental health to their relationships with family members and other close loved ones.

Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious health condition. It can have a number of effects on relationships between family members and the general dynamics within the home.

One of the ways this can show up in the home is codependency. This is a common condition that can develop in people affected by drug or alcohol dependence, including children and parents.

Learn more about substance abuse in families

What Is Codependency?

Codependency is a learned behavior or pattern of dysfunctional behaviors that occur within a relationship. It has also been described as a disease or dysfunctional pattern of relating to others.

Unlike a healthy relationship, codependent relationships are one-sided, where one person will essentially neglect their own needs in order to care for those of another person.

This can occur with:

  • parents
  • children
  • siblings
  • spouses
  • friends
  • romantic partners

Codependent tendencies typically develop in relationships marked by one of these three characteristics: substance abuse, an abusive partner, or excessive peer pressure.

Get Started On The Road To Recovery.

Get Confidential Help 24/7. Call Today!

(844) 616-3400

What Causes Codependency?

Codependency is a relationship dynamic that often develops in people who experienced some form of dysfunction in their childhood, specifically within the home.

The origins of codependent tendencies, according to some researchers, are typically rooted in the family.

That is, they can be traced back to a person’s earliest, more formative relationships—with parents who have a drug or alcohol problem, for example, or siblings.

Codependency may be associated with families that have the following traits:

  • instability
  • chaos
  • judgment
  • secrecy
  • manipulative
  • excessively high expectations
  • abuse or neglect
  • inattentive
  • unsafe
  • mental illness
  • poor coping behaviors

Moreover, experiencing abuse or neglect outside of the home—in a romantic relationship, for instance—can also put a person at greater risk for developing codependent traits.

Not all codependent tendencies develop in childhood, although this is common.

Codependency tendencies can often develop out of feelings of low self-worth, poor self-esteem, as well as a general sense that a person’s thoughts, feelings, or general well-being doesn’t matter.

Signs Of Addiction Codependency In Families

Codependency is commonly seen in households affected by drug and alcohol use disorder, as well as abusive domestic relationships.

Examples of codependent characteristics include:

  • enabling drinking or drug use behaviors
  • doing more than their share
  • being loyal to a fault
  • justifying abusive or unacceptable behaviors
  • manipulating others into taking care of them
  • an exaggerated sense of responsibility for taking care of others
  • fear of abandonment or being alone
  • extreme need for approval and validation
  • feeling guilty in any attempt to assert themselves
  • putting themselves last
  • unhealthy dependence on a relationship
  • difficulty making decisions
  • basing self-worth on what others think of you
  • putting others on a pedestal
  • doing things you don’t want to in order to please others

Identifying codependency isn’t always easy. Often, codependent individuals will try to justify their behavior, minimize it, or accept it as a natural part of their relationship.

This itself can be a sign of codependency: You know something’s wrong, or is unlike relationships in which there is mutual benefit, but are either not ready or unwilling to recognize it.

What Are The Consequences Of Codependency?

Codependency is an unhealthy, unsupportive way of relating to another person. Within families affected by addiction, this can have a number of consequences.

Codependent behaviors can ruin relationships, create confusion within a relationship, and make it more difficult for people with substance use disorder to confront and overcome their addiction.

Other issues associated with codependency include:

For children who essentially reverse roles with their addicted parents, codependent tendencies can have long-term effects on behavior, sense of self, self-esteem, and future relationships.

This can even last into adulthood. With treatment, however, through individual counseling, family counseling, or a drug rehab program, families can begin to address the effects of codependency.

Overcoming Addiction Codependency

Codependency often has its origins in the family. Specifically, families that have at least one person with a drug or alcohol addiction. But it doesn’t have to be a lifelong sentence.

Many drug and alcohol rehab programs offer treatment for families, including spouses, children, and other close relatives, and encourage their active participation in a person’s treatment.

Family treatment for codependency may involve:

  • behavioral therapy
  • role-playing techniques
  • family support groups
  • couples/marriage counseling
  • weekly family therapy sessions
  • individual counseling for family members
  • relapse prevention planning for families
  • aftercare planning

Of course, each family member has the opportunity to opt in or out of a loved one’s addiction treatment process.

Moreover, the person with the addiction may also not be ready to confront the effects of a codependent relationship or how their substance abuse has affected their dearest loved ones.

Addiction is often referred to as a family disease. It affects the family, but families can also heal from it together—sometimes alone, in their own time at first, and then later, together.

Find Treatment For An Addicted Family Member

Overcoming codependency, and finding a path towards healing from substance abuse, is possible. For those with addiction, this will often begin with finding addiction treatment.

Treatment for addiction can be found at multiple levels of care, including:

  • inpatient
  • residential
  • partial hospitalization (day treatment)
  • intensive outpatient
  • general outpatient

You don’t have to explore these options alone. To learn more about available addiction treatment options, call our helpline today for more information.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

  • Was this Helpful?
  • YesNo
Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on December 29, 2021
Let us walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help:
100% Free & Confidential. Call (844) 616-3400