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Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

Codependency and Addiction: Signs and Symptoms

Table of Contents

Addiction is a progressive condition in which its roots can be difficult to untangle. When an addict seeks treatment for an addiction to drugs and alcohol, there can be many factors that can complicate their recovery. Codependency is an excellent example of a condition that can present a significant obstacle on their path to long-term recovery. The following article will explain the concept of codependency and how it ties into addiction and its effects on both the addict and the family.

The Definition of Codependency


In simple terms, codependency can be defined as a relationship in which one person puts the needs of another person over their own. In this context, the partner or family member takes on the role of a caretaker and decision maker. While a codependent person may have the best intentions in mind, the dynamics of the relationship eventually turns toxic—especially if it involves addiction.

The Implications of Codependency and Substance Use


The relationship between codependent behaviors and addiction can get messy. When there is a codependent relationship, the person who is the caretaker and decision maker in the relationship engages in enabling behaviors. This can include paying for rent, mortgage, and groceries. Enabling behavior may also include covering for the addict’s absence or disturbing behavior. With no consequences to be dealt with, the addict in the relationship continues their self-destructive behavior.

Codependency in addiction is harmful to the person in the caretaker role. The person who assumes this role is willing to do almost anything to keep the relationship alive. They will do so even if that relationship is toxic. The person in the caretaker/decision maker role wants to be loved and is afraid of rejection. As a result, the caretaker will do anything and everything in their power to keep the relationship alive.

Oftentimes the caretaker in a codependent role came from a family where parents or other family members were addicted to drugs and alcohol. In those cases, they were forced into a parental/nurturer role at an early age. Additionally, those they may also suffer from an undiagnosed mental illness such as depression. Unfortunately, a codependent may also have substance abuse issues along with the partner.

The Symptoms of Addiction and Codependency

For those who are codependent with a partner who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, they will display a variety of signs of codependency in addiction include the following:
  • Low self-esteem
  • Has difficulty in setting healthy boundaries and standing their ground when it comes to their own boundaries
  • Poor communication skills with others
  • Obsessing over what other people may or may not think
  • Intimacy issues
  • Increased risk of developing depression, or may already be suffering from depression
  • Increased manifestation of anger and resentment

Getting Help!

For those who are dealing with both codependency and addiction issues, they must undergo treatment that specifically targets both issues. Both the addict and the codependent persons will need to undergo therapy to uncover the underlying causes of each person’s behavior. Therapists will work closely with each party in the codependent relationship to developing the ability to set healthy boundaries.

Additionally, intensive drug treatment will be needed to help the addict deal with the issues that led to their addiction. If there is an underlying mental health issue, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals will work with addiction treatment staff in creating a personalized dual diagnosis treatment plan that fits the client’s unique and specific needs.

If you and a loved one are dealing with codependency and addiction, now is the time to get help. Call NuView Treatment Center to speak with one of our experienced staff members.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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