Co-dependency and addiction: A dangerous relationship

Also known as relationship addiction, co-dependency is defined as a type of disorder  or psychological condition in which a person allows themselves to be controlled and/or manipulated by another person who is affected with a pathological condition (such as drugs or alcohol).

Oftentimes, co-dependency is characterized by low self esteem and denial as the co-dependent person places their needs below the needs of others. This dependent behavior, whereby the co-dependent person seeks/needs the approval of other people, can sometimes result in a similar need and/or co-dependency on drugs or alcohol.

4 Characteristics in codependent individuals

The initial mention of codependent relationships stemmed from Alanon where it was discovered that the problem of addiction was not entirely the fault of the addict but, rather, also encompassed the alcohol addict’s friends, family and constituents- people whom the addict sought approval from. It wasn’t until more recently, that this notion of ‘codependency’ took on a much narrower definition whereby it is used to describe substance abusers who are co-dependent on drugs or alcohol [source].

Contrary to what many would believe, codependency only refers to those behaviors or feelings that are excessive to an unhealthy degree. Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) describes 4 main characteristics found among codependent individuals as well as the behaviors listed for each. For the complete list of behavior patterns for each characteristic.


  • difficulty identifying feelings
  • minimizing how you really feel
  • perceiving yourself as totally unselfish and/or dedicated to the well-being of others
  • failing to recognize the unavailability of those to whom you may be attracted to

Low Self Esteem

  • difficulty making decisions
  • judging what you say/do as never being good enough
  • valuing others’ approval of your thoughts, feeling or behavior over what you think
  • failing to perceive yourself as being worthy of love
  • constantly seeking recognition
  • looking to others to provide you with a sense of safety


  • excessive loyalty/remaining in a potentially harmful situation too long
  • putting your own interests last in favor of other people’s interests
  • making decisions without any thoughts to potential consequences
  • demonstrated hyper-vigilance to feelings of other people


  • believing that most people are incapable of taking care of themselves
  • using sexual attention to gain approval/acceptance
  • adopting attitudes of indifference, helplessness or authority in order to manipulate outcomes
  • pretending to agree with others in order to get what you want


  • acting in ways that invite others to reject, shame or express anger towards you
  • suppressing your feelings/avoiding feeling vulnerable
  • believing that displays of emotion are a sign of weakness
  • judging harshly the actions of others

Am I co-dependent?

Co-dependency varies from person to person with symptoms ranging from weak to severe. The only way to know whether or not you suffer from co-dependency is to speak to a qualified professional. Only a qualified professional can truly make a diagnosis of codependency. It is also worth noting that not everyone who answers yes to the following questions is co-dependent! [source]
10 Questions to help you identify co-dependency
  1. Do I keep quiet in order to avoid arguments?
  2. Am I always worried about others’ opinions about me?
  3. Do I feel rejected when my significant other spends time with his/her friends instead of me?
  4. Do I have difficulty accepting compliments?
  5. Do I have trouble asking for help?
  6. Do I think that people in my life would go downhill if I didn’t constantly make an effort?
  7. Am I uncomfortable expressing my true feelings to others?
  8. Have I ever lived with someone who has had an alcohol or drug problem?
  9. Have I ever lived with someone who has been physically or emotionally abusive towards me?
  10. Am I confused about who I am or where I am going with my life?

Moving past codependency

In order to move past codependency into a life characterized by healthy independence and emotional well-being, recovery options for codependent people usually involve:
  • Education
  • Experiential group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Alanon
Oftentimes, codependency has its roots in early childhood developmental issues that may be directly linked to family dynamics in the home. By revisiting these early issues, qualified professionals may work with codependent individuals to help them unlock feelings that may have been buried since their childhood.
At BRC Recovery, our staff members are skilled in recognizing codependent behavior patterns as it pertains to drug and alcohol addiction as many of our residents have had severely damaged personal relationships or have been involved in codependent relationships. By helping our residents look at their own behavior in relationship to others around them, we work to improve their support system as well as help them make healthier life choices moving forward in their recovery.
  • Co-dependency | Mental Health America (MHA)
  • Codependency | Wikipedia
  • Patterns and characteristics of codependence | CoDA
  • Recovery patterns of codependence | CoDA