What Is Codependency Treatment?

A person who is codependent experiences a need to feel depended on to feel loved. This typically occurs with a spouse or romantic partner, but codependency can also involve children, parents or other family members. These kinds of relationships are generally imbalanced — one person’s needs often go unmet in order to meet the needs of the other — and can perpetuate cycles of challenging behavior and addiction.

Codependency can be difficult to recognize and often requires professional treatment. Fortunately there are several effective treatment options available to help you overcome codependent patterns and restore balance to your relationship. 

Signs of Codependency

chaotic and unpredictable living environment

In some cases, people who develop codependent behaviors grew up in a household with a parent who struggled with addiction, so they are used to the process of caring for a person while they are intoxicated and finding other ways to control their lives. As a result it’s not always obvious when a person is in a codependent relationship. However, being able to identify the signs of codependency can help break out of patterns that may be harmful.

The signs of codependency include:

  • Dependency. A person struggling with codependency needs others to depend on them to provide help, structure, nurturing, support, and more.
  • Low self-esteem. A codependent person may not feel that they are good enough or worthy of love. They may depend on the needs and opinion of others to feel some measure of self-worth.
  • Poor boundaries. People who struggle with codependency will have a poor sense of boundaries — either for themselves or others. In contrast, they may have rigid boundaries and become withdrawn or resentful when the boundary is crossed.
  • People-pleasing. A person struggling with codependency will have a hard time saying “no” to requests. It can lead to feelings of resentment, guilt, shame, or feeling violated because the person pushed themselves too hard to accommodate the needs of others.
  • Caretaking. People who have a codependent relationship style feel like they constantly need to take care of others even when it is to their own detriment. They may even feel rejected if their partner does not need their help.
  • Control. People struggling with codependency over-help to feel in control of the situation.  They may develop their own substance abuse problems to control their moods, they may over-schedule themselves or others, or they may be bossy or emotionally manipulative to control others outside of the codependent relationship.
  • Obsessions. When a person struggles with codependency, they may spend a lot of time thinking about other people’s behaviors and relationships.

Treatment for Codependent Behaviors

While some individuals may be able to break out of patterns of codependent behavior on their own, often it requires professional treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps individuals focus on understanding behaviors and changing reactions.

Other types of therapy can include couples therapy to help both partners in people in codependent relationships; or family therapy to help reduce the impact of codependency among parents, children, and extended family.

Steps that you can take on your own to break out of codependent behavior patterns include:

  • Carving out time alone to explore oneself
  • Reconnecting with work or hobbies outside the codependent relationship
  • Finding ways to say “no” to requests for help
  • Reconnecting with outside friends and family

If anyone in the codependent relationship struggles with substance abuse, it will be imperative to get treatment for this condition along with treatment for codependency.

Codependency and Substance Abuse Treatment

A person working to overcome substance abuse needs support from friends and family. However, it is vital that family support involves boundaries in order to reduce the risk of relapse. People who struggle with enabling or codependency may not be able to appropriately moderate their emotions and boundaries, which can be detrimental to the recovery process.

Codependency is harmful to the person who struggles with it, and it is a hard behavior to change without help. When a person struggling with substance abuse seeks help, this changes larger relationship patterns, and it may be difficult for individuals people who struggle with codependency to change as they feel unsafe or unloved.

However, codependent relationships can be changed for the better. This work requires both parties getting help. In some cases, this may also involve one or all people in the relationship entering treatment for substance abuse.

The Four A’s for Codependency Recovery

Some approaches to codependency treatment involve four steps, called the Four A’s:

  1. Abstinence. This involves taking steps to abstain from codependent behaviors, including “me time” or reinvigorating interest in hobbies.
  2. Awareness. Acknowledging that codependency is a problem, much like acknowledging that substance abuse is a problem, is an important step to getting help and ending problematic behaviors. Awareness includes noticing when you engage in codependent behaviors, like controlling others or overexerting oneself for another person.
  3. Acceptance. Overcoming a mental health condition or substance abuse problem is a lifelong journey that includes therapy at various times, self-care and self-help.
  4. Action. After accepting the condition and being aware of behaviors, it is important to take action to change them. Working with a therapist will help this process.

Contact one of our admissions navigators at to find out about our treatment options for you or your loved one struggling with codependency or addiction. They can help you navigate payment options, the admissions process, or help you find out if your treatment is covered by insurance. 

Reaching out to get help is one of the toughest steps for people struggling with codependency, but it can make all the difference in the world. If you believe that you are struggling with codependency, River Oaks Treatment Center can help. Call us today to learn more about our Tampa addiction recovery center and comprehensive treatment programs.

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