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Codependency in Recovery

When you’re in a relationship, it is completely normal to expect the other person to actively love and respect you. With that said, relying on a partner’s love to validate you can affect your emotional and physical well-being. Unfortunately, it’s a common relationship pattern in early recovery that negatively impacts a person’s ability to grow. In more severe cases, this dependence can devolve into codependency.

Depending on outside approval for your own self-fulfillment and needing a partner’s love to maintain a healthy self-image is linked to:

  • Codependency
  • Dependent personality disorder (DPD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

A certain level of dependency in a relationship is normal. Humans are wired to connect with others and thrive off intimacy and togetherness. Depending on your partner for comfort and support doesn’t mean you are codependent. In fact, it is healthy to feel like you can depend on a loved one. Codependency, however, is an unhealthy degree of dependency. People with codependent behaviors often enter extremely unhealthy relationships that affect their well-being. 

What Is Codependency?

Codependency is an obsessive and unhealthy emotional, physical, and mental reliance on someone significant in your life. The ultimate drive of people who are codependent is to please others and put their needs above their own. Not all forms of codependency are as extreme as others, but any type of codependency can impact you emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally.

For people in recovery, it can be incredibly easy to develop codependent behaviors with those closest to them. Codependency in recovery can be especially harmful when you start prioritizing others’ needs over your own. Self-care and self-validation are critical components of long-term recovery and losing sight of these priorities can put you at risk for relapse.

Signs of Codependency

Some signs of codependency are relatable to most people, but it is important to recognize that codependency is not just a feeling that comes and goes. Codependency is an attachment style that feels like it overtakes your thoughts and behaviors and consumes your day-to-day life. If you recognize codependency symptoms in yourself, get the help that you need before it progresses into something more severe.

Warning signs of codependency may include:

  • Your identity is entangled with another person
  • Staying in a relationship even though you’re unhappy or mistreated
  • Placing others’ needs above your own
  • Feeling guilty about expressing your own desires and needs
  • Avoiding conflict at all costs
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • A constant need for approval from others
  • Feeling guilty about doing something for yourself
  • The need for control
  • Micromanaging others
  • Fear of rejection or abandonment

What Is Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a commonly diagnosed personality disorder. It’s associated with people who are overly reliant on others for validation and comfort. People with DPD often spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to please others and are eager for approval. They may exhibit helpless and weak behaviors to get the desired reaction from others.

In recovery, you might feel like you have to regain the approval and support of your loved ones. If the people close to you make you feel that way, you might want to reconsider your relationships with them. It’s not bad to want to prove yourself to people you care about, but don’t consume yourself with it. When you’re struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) or in recovery, it’s easy to dwell on the past and how you hurt those around you. It’s normal to have the urge to “make it up to them,” but don’t allow it to absorb all of your thoughts and motives.

Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) Symptoms

The signs of dependent personality disorder (DPD) revolve around behaviors associated with:

  • Extreme neediness
  • Codependency
  • Clinginess
  • Fear of separation or loneliness 

You might recognize some of these symptoms and relate to them, however, it’s important to remember that people with DPD have severe cases of these feelings and behaviors.

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) symptoms and behaviors may include:

  • Placing others’ needs above your own
  • A constant fear of being alone
  • Needing regular reassurance
  • Depending on others for comfort and support
  • Acting submissive and passive in interpersonal relationships
  • Oversensitivity to criticism
  • Inability to be alone
  • Lack of self-confidence and identity
  • Not standing up for yourself
  • Fear of confrontation
  • Naïve mentality
  • Severe anxiety
  • Fantasizing
  • Tolerating disrespect and mistreatment
  • Intense fear of abandonment or rejection

If you identify with these signs of DPD, a mental health professional can help you address the underlying issues that fuel these behaviors and learn healthier ways of relating to others. Codependent behaviors are especially harmful if you’re in early recovery and should be focusing on yourself and sobriety.

People diagnosed with DPD commonly find themselves in codependent romantic relationships. Knowing that you can depend on your partner is very different than fully depending on them for everything. It’s an unhealthy and unrealistic expectation that puts undue pressure on your partner. It’s important to find a healthy balance between desiring comfort and support from interpersonal relationships and giving it in return. Relationships, where you’re always giving and never receiving anything in exchange, feel unfulfilling and often don’t last.

What Causes Codependency or Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?

Causes of codependency or DPD can stem from several psychological factors or past events, such as:

  • Toxic relationships—emotional and physical abuse play a huge role in damaging self-esteem and emotional stability.
  • Relationship with parents—when you don’t feel loved by your mother or father, you may try to fill that hole with interpersonal relationships, especially romantic ones that are often unhealthy.
  • Family history—it is more common to struggle with codependency or receive a diagnosis of DPD or a personality disorder if one or more family members have a history of codependency, DPD, or related personality disorders.
  • Trauma—traumatic events can fuel severe codependency and doubt that you can handle life on your own.

How Can Codependency Affect Loved Ones?

Codependency is also commonly associated with loved ones of people in recovery or active addiction. If your loved one is struggling with addiction, you may want to “fix them.” It can become your sole mission to do everything possible to get them to stop drinking or taking drugs. While it’s normal to want to help people you love, it can reach an unhealthy level where both of you are suffering. 

A key sign of codependency is working so hard to care for your addicted loved one that you neglect your own needs. This can result in:

If your physical and mental health is affected by your relationship with a loved one, schedule a consultation with a mental health professional. They can help you identify codependent or DPD behaviors and learn to set healthy boundaries and improve interpersonal skills.

Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA)

Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) is a 12-step support group for men and women struggling with codependency. The program helps you cultivate and build healthy relationships. The 12 steps of CoDA encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and share personal experiences and feelings with others who understand what you’re going through. 

Community groups are an important reminder that you’re not alone. Hearing others’ experiences could impact and encourage you in a way you’d never expect—and you could do the same for them.

If you or a loved one is struggling with codependency, CoDA is a confidential space for you to listen, receive, and share your story.

Reach Out

Here at Royal Life Centers, it is our sole mission to provide customized addiction treatment services best suited for your clinical needs and situation. Our admissions specialists can connect you with outreach providers to help you receive the treatment you’re looking for.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, please reach out to us at 877-RECOVERY. Our addiction specialists are available 24/7 to assist you through this time and help you find hope in recovery.

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