What is Codependent Behavior?

Recovering from addiction is a complex process that requires support and guidance, both professional and from family and loved ones. However, the path to recovery is sometimes made more challenging by codependency or codependent behaviors of those who care most for the addict. Addiction is a disease that impacts the addict and those around them. For this reason, it is often called a family disease. Generally, anyone close to someone struggling with addiction will experience challenges associated with trying to help their loved one get well.


It is entirely expected for those who care about the safety and health of their loved ones to want to see them seek help and recover from addiction. Often, they are unsure where to start or how to help effectively. This confusion often leads to challenges with codependent behavior. But what is codependent behavior in addiction?


What is Codependent Behavior?

Codependency is a relationship pattern that results when one person consistently puts others’ needs before their own. Codependents are knowingly or perhaps unknowingly taken advantage of by friends or loved ones. Codependency occurs high frequency in relationships where addiction is involved. It is possible to do more harm than good by granting a person with addictive behaviors permission to take advantage of the situation indefinitely. There are often no adverse repercussions for “bad behavior” arising from addiction when codependency is involved.


The codependent person is also known as an enabler. Although believed to be in the best interest of the addict, their behavior often unwittingly helps or encourages the addict to continue using drugs or alcohol. This encouragement can be either direct or indirect. Some examples include hiding the addict’s behavior from others or giving an addict money to buy drugs or manage legal fees, “cleaning up” after destructive behaviors, or making excuses for why the addict engages in harmful activities like drinking or using.


How Can Codependent Relationships Affect Mental Health and Addiction?

Codependent behavior can be dangerous for a person suffering from addiction. The presence of this behavior doesn’t encourage the addict to change their behavior or, in any way, indicate their behavior has negative consequences.

People with a drug or alcohol addiction often exhibit a range of difficulties stemming from their addiction. A few examples may include:

  • Financial struggles
  • Issues at work or maintaining employment
  • Problems with relationships
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors
  • A constant need for emotional support or uplifting


For relationships involving codependency and addiction, the codependent partner often does what they can to support the addict regardless of any adverse consequences. The codependent will often help the addict engage in harmful behaviors, clean up after, and cover for them when their behavior is questioned. They may also provide financial support to the addict while feeding their addiction.


Unfortunately, while the codependent person believes they are helping their addicted loved one, they often do more harm. Engaging in codependent behaviors can, in time, harm the mental health of the addict and the codependent. Because the behaviors of a codependent often mean addiction continues without help or treatment from a professional rehab, both the codependent and the addict never receive the support they need to learn safer and or effective ways to recover.


How to Find Treatment for Codependent Behavior

A codependent person often tries to fix others, even when professional treatment would be best. This can be dangerous and lead to further substance abuse. Addiction treatment works best when it occurs in a treatment facility designed to address addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders or medical complications that may arise as part of withdrawal. Addiction treatment providers understand how addiction results in harmful coping mechanisms. They also have experience with how addiction and codependency are related. At a professional treatment center like Rise in Malibu, an addict ready to overcome struggles with drugs and alcohol can receive the medical and mental health help they need to achieve lasting sobriety.


Treatment can be beneficial to the codependent as well. Family therapy sessions work with both the addict and codependent family member(s) to help those operating in an enabling capacity to understand the impact their behavior may be having. Although the addict engages in harmful or dangerous behavior, the enabler (or codependent individual) needs to realize that their actions only further the potential for adverse or even detrimental consequences. If a codependent person continues to cover up for, supply financial backing, or even encourage the addictive behavior, the addict is unlikely to seek treatment or get better.


If you are in a relationship where you are the codependent or the enabling party, don’t underestimate the benefits of family therapy at our luxury treatment center in Malibu, California. Learning more about and understanding how codependent or enabling behaviors only further addictive behaviors for your loved one or family member can be crucial to their recovery and ongoing sobriety. Contact Rise in Malibu today to learn more about how we can help your family.

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