Understanding Codependency in Addiction

Editorial Team

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Often described as “caring until it hurts,” codependency is a set of thoughts and behaviors that create relationship problems for adults. Codependent adults put the needs of others before their own, and they often do so to the point of compromising their own wellbeing. The behaviors that are associated with codependency often develop over the course of a person’s life because of perpetual emotional or physical trauma. Codependency in addiction can be troubling for the person struggling with codependency and for the person struggling with a substance addiction.

Signs and Symptoms

To understand how codependency and addiction can be troublesome in relationships, it helps to understand the signs of both problems. These are some of the traits associated with people who struggle with addiction:

  • They put themselves and their addictions above the needs of others.
  • They focus on their own feelings and are consumed by addiction.
  • Because of the addiction, they often face legal problems, loss of relationships, loss of money and more.

Keeping those points in mind, consider the common signs of a person struggling with codependency:

  • They find it difficult to say “no” and want to please others.
  • Many have a desire to control situations, outcomes, and their own feelings.
  • Individuals have difficulty creating healthy boundaries.
  • They often blame themselves for a partner’s actions and make excuses for the partner’s behavior.
  • Some may develop shame, guilt, and depression because of low self-esteem.

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What Does Codependency in Addiction Look Like?

Codependency is not usually detected until adulthood. This is because children tend to naturally be dependent, and psychologists believe that they develop it from being in a dysfunctional environment. When people reach adulthood, codependency often manifests in these phases:

  • In the first phase, the person looks like a devoted and very caring partner in a relationship.
  • Signs of maladaptive behavior appear and worsen in the second phase.
  • In the third phase, maladaptive behaviors negatively affect mental health.

When a person with codependency is in a relationship with someone who struggles with addiction, the desire to please the partner with the addiction can lead to the enabling of addiction-related behaviors. The person with codependency will likely make continual sacrifices for the person who struggles with addiction. Eventually, the person with the addiction may spiral out of control. At some point, the person with codependency issues will become angry, frustrated and exhausted as the person with addiction issues has worsening problems.

A Study on Codependency

Relationships can also become dangerous. The National Institutes of Health published a study about the wives of men who struggled with alcohol addiction, and it showed that they displayed much higher levels of agreeableness than women who were married to men who did not suffer from alcohol addiction. That shows the potential physical danger for a codependent person who lives with a spouse with addiction issues, which can commonly lead to violent behaviors. The codependent partner may blame herself, make excuses and keep trying to please the addicted partner. In addition to the physical danger, she is more likely to develop depression or other mental health issues.

Can You Break Codependency?

The good news is that there are effective treatments for codependency. If it is not treated, it will only worsen throughout adulthood. According to experts, the first step is to identify and acknowledge the behaviors that need to change. A person must be conscious of what codependency costs. This applies to relationships, jobs, emotions and more. With that realization, it is easier to enter counseling and therapy to overcome the behaviors, learn to communicate better, learn healthy balance in relationships, learn to set boundaries and more. A therapist can teach the right strategies to accomplish these goals.

Help for Both Sides

Although it can be especially difficult for a person with codependency issues to reach out, it is an essential step for achieving emotional freedom and trying to save a relationship. The person with the addiction issue will also need help. If you may have codependency issues, SpringBoard Recovery can help get your loved one the help that he or she needs. These are some ways that we help people who struggle with addiction:

  • Safe detox referrals
  • Sober living
  • Intensive outpatient counseling
  • Diet management
  • Nutritional aftercare
  • Individual or group counseling
  • Twelve-step programs

SpringBoard Recovery compassionately helps people who struggle with addiction and teaches them the right strategies to break the cycle for good. If you have questions about codependency in addiction and addiction treatment options, please contact us. We are eager to help you live a happier life.


  1. FIT/UCE Employee Assistance Program: https://www.fitnyc.edu/files/pdfs/EAP_Codependency.pdf
  2. Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319873#:~:text=People%20who%20are%20codependent%20as,or%20not%20important%20at%20all.
  3. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/emotional-trauma-aftermath#1
  4. The Ohio State University: https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/are-you-enabling-the-addict-in-your-life
  5. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02791072.1986.10524475
  6. PsychCentral: https://psychcentral.com/lib/codependency-addiction-stages-of-disease-and-recovery#1
  7. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5115643/
  8. NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-codependency-signs-codependent-relationship-ncna940666
  9. Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/do-you-have-a-codependent-personality.aspx
  10. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/signs-of-a-codependent-relationship#1

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MAY 6, 2020

Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.   The U.S. Alcohol Crisis, Still Deadlier Than the Opioid Epidemic   Zombies and Other Future Threats to the Health of American Youth Dire Mental Health: A Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Drug Addiction The Benefits of Rehab Center Staff Working Their Own Recovery Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Robert Castan on Successful Addiction Treatment and Entrepreneurship Castan: The road less traveled of addiction & recovery in Scottsdale Opioids & COVID Driving Phoenix’s Rising Fatal Drug Overdoses Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship

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