Co-Dependent Behaviors / Traits
Inhibited Emotions – Detachment occurs. Don’t touch, don’t feel, don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t confront. Keeping the addiction hidden becomes then entire focus of the addict’s family and / or others in co-dependent relationships, shifting all main focus of safety, health, and basically life to the sick person or addict. With the focus off themselves, the co-dependent people neglect their own safety, health…in short, lives.
Self – Esteem – Low self-esteem is common among co-dependent people. To substitute something in the “real world” that would make them feel better, since their fantasy of the hidden addiction becomes their real world, they often become addicts themselves, diving into gambling, illicit sex, cigarette or marijuana smoking, work (becoming workaholics), or drugs and alcohol as well.
Martyr – These caretakers take on a martyr role while trying to “help” the addict. But their exaggerated, compulsive behaviors that they think actually “help” others, in reality negate their supposed “help.” For example; a co-dependent person may think nothing of lying for his or her spouse or adult (or teen) children to cover up for theft to fund a drug addiction. Since this behavior does indeed “help” the addict – stay addicted, that is, the co-dependent person feels “needed” and a cycle of dependency develops around the addict – additive behavior / substance – caretaker – caretakers compulsive actions / behaviors.
Victim - Co-dependent people feel caught up in the cycle of dependency and feel helpless to break free. They see themselves as victims and are magnetically drawn to others in similar circumstances in their relationships.
Confused – Because of the nature of the disorder, co-dependent people often confuse love with pity and rescuing. They hold on to unhealthy relationships at all costs to avoid feeling abandoned. They feel guilty when trying to be in control, yet they feel driven to control people around them. They desperately seek approval or to be recognized, in part because of their identity loss while trying to hide the addict and addiction problems. And in part because they don’t trust themselves or others with all of the lying going on, and can’t identify reality very well or trust their own feelings. (Outward shows of appreciation like rewards and approval help ground them).
Unhealthy emotions – Intimacy and personal boundaries become problematic, as escaping reality unfortunately comes with the need to find escape outlets. So dealing with intimate emotional issues like feeling loved can mean reaching out to the wrong person. Anger and how to deal with it also becomes a problem and can be misdirected – both internally, causing health problems like ulcers, and externally, like in violent behaviors, because the person doesn’t know hope to cope or where to turn for help. And adjusting to change is burdensome, with lack of effective communication skills and healthy decision-making tossed aside. So depression and anxiety-related emotions surface and fester.