Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders: Codependency and Substance Abuse

Codependency worsens manipulation in relationships and can destroy the lives of the people in those relationships. Although the DSM-5 diagnostic guide does not include codependency as a mental health disorder, codependency encompasses behaviors that create a specific lifestyle. When codependency co-occurs in a relationship with substance misuse by one or both partners, it can lead to many destructive outcomes.

It is important to understand that addiction and codependency are separate from one another as well. While the effects of the codependent relationship may lead to addiction development, the addiction can still exist even if the codependent relationship ends or changes. Many people in codependent relationships do not realize or understand their behavior patterns and the reasons for them.

What Is Codependency?

What Is Addiction?Codependency includes thoughts or behaviors that worsen existing problems or create new ones for adults. When people are codependent, one person usually does the majority of the giving and the other person does the majority of the taking. People who give too much often wind up compromising their own mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. In addition to harming the giver’s mental health, codependent relationships open the door for enabling destructive behaviors or actions from the taker. Codependent behaviors often include physical, emotional, and mental reliance on a partner.

For example, someone who is a manipulator may rely on the other partner to meet physical, financial, or other needs. In a romantic relationship, a partner who is codependent and is the giver may go to extreme measures to meet the needs of the other one. 

However, codependent relationships are not always between romantic partners. They can occur between friends, family members, and even colleagues. A parent may excessively rely on an adult child to provide for them. Manipulative coworkers may seek codependent relationships to find others to do their work for them.

Signs and Symptoms of Codependency

Codependency typically develops after people reach adulthood. It often happens as a result of childhood neglect or perpetual traumatic experiences in life. If a person experiences a traumatic relationship, the effects of that relationship may lead the individual to seek a codependent relationship in the future. It helps to understand the signs and symptoms, which vary between givers and takers. These are some common examples among givers:

  • Givers value the approval of others more than their own self-approval.
  • Givers do not trust themselves and lack self-esteem.
  • Givers feel an exaggerated sense of responsibility to others.
  • Givers find it difficult or impossible to create healthy boundaries.
  • Givers blame themselves for any problems in the relationship, even if the problems are only because of the taker.
  • Givers often develop depression and feel guilty or ashamed.

In codependent relationships, the signs and symptoms in the taker may be the opposite of those of the giver. These are some examples:

  • Takers are obsessed with their own emotions and feelings.
  • Takers put their own needs above others’ needs.
  • Takers feel a sense of entitlement and use manipulation to get what they want.

What Is Addiction?

Understanding Codependency in AddictionToday, scientists and doctors have a much better understanding of addiction. It is called a brain disease since its effects are physical in nature and are lasting. On brain imaging scans, the effects of addiction are easily visible. Poorer brain function is detectable by color contrast on scans of the brains of people with substance addictions, and healthier improvements are visible after the brain starts to recover.

When someone starts using a substance that is addictive, the person often develops a tolerance to it. For example, with opioid painkillers, a person who develops a tolerance may not feel the same effects taking a normal dose after a few weeks. Substances also change how the brain receives and sends signals, affecting how people perceive pain, anxiety, or other negative feelings and sensations. The effects cause the brain to send signals to the body to seek more of the substance.

Since the effects also lead to a lack of judgment, a person may go to extremes to obtain more. For example, someone may steal from a friend or relative to get money for more of a substance. As tolerance builds and these behaviors become a pattern, an addiction forms. Even after a substance leaves the body and bloodstream, the effects on the brain persist. This is why professional treatment is essential for recovery.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Depending on the individual, addiction can be easy or hard to identify. For example, some people openly talk about misusing a prescription, drinking excessively, or using street drugs. However, most people are more secretive. Despite this, there are signs that can indicate an addiction. These are some common signs:

  • The individual closely guards a bag, briefcase, drawer, or other location.
  • There are empty pill bottles, alcohol bottles, or other containers.
  • The person is unusually talkative or lethargic frequently.
  • The individual has frequent mood swings and exaggerated reactions.
  • In a short time, the person withdraws from social, work, and family commitments.
  • The person has new legal or financial problems.
  • The individual suddenly starts neglecting hygiene.

Understanding Codependency in Addiction

addiction and codependencyIn codependent relationships with addiction involved, there are often a few stages. The beginning stage may look like a relationship with a devoted and caring person, and the second and third stages include extreme stress, fatigue, and mental decline. When the person who is the giver devotes time and energy to help the other person, there is a danger that the excessive giving and lack of boundaries can put the giver in a position to enable addiction.

For example, the taker may develop an addiction to painkillers after surgery and may convince the giver to obtain more or convince the giver to overlook misuse. Since the giver lacks boundaries and will often do anything to please the taker, the giver will comply. However, the effects of the taker’s addiction may be so distressing to the giver that the giver also starts misusing a substance. Because the taker is so self-focused, the taker may not care that the physical, emotional, and mental health of the giver is suffering.

Both addiction and codependency are vicious cycles. With addiction, people often relapse without professional treatment and a solid recovery plan. Codependency is an exhausting cycle of giving and taking. When the two coexist, the dangers are higher for both people in the relationship. Professionals can help both people in the relationship if they are willing to change. In some cases, only the person who is the giver seeks treatment. If an exhausted giver is in a relationship with an abusive taker, professionals can help the giver get out of the relationship.

How Dual Diagnosis Treatment Helps With Codependency and Addiction

The first step in treating codependency that co-occurs with addiction is recognizing problems and making a conscious decision to treat them. When addiction and codependency are not treated, they both become worse. Dual diagnosis treatment focuses on simultaneously treating addiction and codependency together. Using a variety of treatment methods and techniques, professionals help people in codependent relationships learn the causes of their behaviors and their addiction triggers.

Professionals teach them how to modify behaviors and deal with triggers. People learn how to create and respect boundaries. They learn how to communicate better and they learn how to overcome addiction as they also learn how to change codependent behaviors. When people only treat one issue, there is still a remaining problem. For example, treating addiction without treating codependency leaves the problematic codependent behaviors intact. Those behaviors are often what lead to addiction development, which is why dual diagnosis treatment is critical. It helps people avoid relapse and live healthier lives.

Finding Treatment for Codependency in Addiction in Woodland Hills

At Harmony Place, we believe in treating the entire person and helping people heal physically, spiritually, and mentally. Our compassionate approach to treatment includes a thorough analysis of all issues and dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders. Reaching out for help is a difficult step for both people in codependent relationships, especially when one or both people struggle with addiction. However, getting help is worth the effort. Once people learn how to break the cycle of addiction and codependent behaviors, they can live happier and healthier lives.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or codependency, we are here to help. Whether you are in a new relationship or feel like you are losing control of your life after years of being in a codependent relationship, we can help.

Our team analyzes all your needs to find the right treatment plan. We teach people the right ways to overcome addiction, change behaviors for healthier relationships and live fuller lives. To learn more about treatment for substance misuse and codependency, please contact us. We look forward to helping you find the hope and freedom you deserve.