Mental Health

Let's Talk About Codependency

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The mere nature of relationships come with an array of dynamics. As we grow and invest time as well as energy into a relationship, we may find that we have been building a relationship built on unhealthy behaviors. One of the most common trends that we find during counseling sessions is a pattern of codependency. It is a common term you may have heard before but let's delve into what it means, what the patterns and pitfalls look like and finally ways to break its cycle.

The term codependency is commonly associated with people who are supporting or enabling individuals dealing with addiction. But that is only one of the many ways in which a relationship can exhibit signs of codependency.

In fact, any two people who are invested to the point where neither can function independently may be considered codependent. While typically there is a passive party who looks to the other for decision making and a more commanding personality who is "in charge" it is important to remember this is going to look different from situation to situation. The consistent factor is if your sense of self-worth and identity are wrapped up in another person's mood and happiness- it is an unhealthy dynamic. 

Hallmark Signs of Codependency include:

  • Inability to make decisions within a relationship

  • Low self-esteem and lacking trust in yourself

  • Valuing the approval of others more than yourself

  • Constant fears of abandonment

  • Being dependent on the other person to your own detriment

  • Feeling an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the behaviors/actions of others

Many people involved in codependent relationships benefit from therapy. Individual sessions can help the traditionally "dependent" person build self-esteem, confidence and an understanding why they are relying so much on other people for fulfillment. If both people are invested in change, couples or family therapy can help restructure the framework of their relationship.

  • Breaking the cycle will begin with taking accountability for your contribution to the relationship and being honest with yourself and your partner. Living a lie breeds resentment and anger but an open dialogue about your needs and desires can be the start of healing.

  • Creating or re-establishing ties with people outside of your codependent relationship(s) can help eliminate the feelings of isolation that often accompany these situations. External relationships have often suffered neglect so it may feel like a big task but small steps such as texting or even going the extra mile of a mailed card can go a long way in the right direction. 

  • Reignite your passions! Pick up a hobby; whether it's continuing an old one or starting a new pursuit. This time for yourself spent doing what you love will help you feel whole without the other person.

  • Eliminating the codependent behavior may or may not entail saying goodbye to your partner but the goal of breaking the cycle of codependency is to ultimately see yourself as a competent and capable independent person.

  • Setting clear boundaries. Where does your partners needs end and yours begin?  Realizing you are not responsible for anyone's happiness but your own will allow you to live in a guilt free healthy relationship.

Lastly, remember that healthy relationships are comprised of two separate identities having commonalities and differences with acceptance, respect and level of understanding. When you find yourself consumed with your significant other in a way that your own interests, happiness and mental health start to take a back seat to theirs – get help. Self-care can begin with reaching out to a mental health professional for individual therapy or group therapy to learn behavioral patterns and coping skills to change course.   

6 Ways You Can Help Reduce The Mental Health Stigma

The stigma for mental health clients continues to negatively impact communities of all kinds. The taboo of being mentally unwell crosses all socioeconomic levels, age groups, races, religions and professions. Similar to a physical health diagnosis; some people simply do not want to know, they are ashamed or in denial of their symptoms and self medicate. Whether you are the potential client or close to the potential client I believe the general consensus is, having a mental health crisis can be scary for everyone involved.  As a therapist, my goal is to discuss mental wellness with as many people as possible to help normalize seeking treatment for mental health and wellness. What better time to have an open dialogue about mental health than now with the many changes in our healthcare system. It would be ideal if everyone could set aside their assumptions, fears and negative perspectives about mental health. We can help those around us seek help without the fear of labeling and minimizing with a few tips. Below are a few ways to help someone that appears to need help achieving mental wellness.   What Can you Do....    Get educated . Learn the facts about symptoms you experience or observe in someone else. Mental health needs are not the same in everyone and can manifest differently for each person. Everyone will not need a diagnose, hospitalization or medication.   Know who to call and when . There is only so much self medicating once can do before the symptoms become too much to manage. Simply talking about mental health will not give a person any ideas. Sometimes, someone initiating a discussion can break the ice and start the process. Know the resources in your community and call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department when the symptoms appear unmanageable.   Be supportive.  If you are struggling with providing support, connect with someone that is empathetic to you and can possibly lead you in the right direction. There are a number treatments available and it takes courage to seek the help. The difference between someone seeking help or silently fighting can be the support of one helpful individual.   Be aware of your own judgements and prejudices . We all have them; and unfortunately many come from other uneducated individuals passing on poor information. Be honest about your own shame and guilt about mental health so that you can be an active participant in ending the stigma.   Listen, listen, listen.  Whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not - we all want to be heard. We all want to know that someone is listening to us and/or trying to understand what we need. Just because you don’t understand the symptoms does not mean you are not able to help.   Support mental health organizations and providers.  Many organizations close due to funding and lack of community support. Volunteering your time and/or money goes a long way to provide resources for those in need of services. You may not know who you helped specifically but your contribution can help other professionals and volunteers with ending the negative stigma.   Mental health care and treatment is a universal issue and awareness is one of the critical pieces to making treatment available.

The stigma for mental health clients continues to negatively impact communities of all kinds. The taboo of being mentally unwell crosses all socioeconomic levels, age groups, races, religions and professions. Similar to a physical health diagnosis; some people simply do not want to know, they are ashamed or in denial of their symptoms and self medicate. Whether you are the potential client or close to the potential client I believe the general consensus is, having a mental health crisis can be scary for everyone involved.

As a therapist, my goal is to discuss mental wellness with as many people as possible to help normalize seeking treatment for mental health and wellness. What better time to have an open dialogue about mental health than now with the many changes in our healthcare system. It would be ideal if everyone could set aside their assumptions, fears and negative perspectives about mental health. We can help those around us seek help without the fear of labeling and minimizing with a few tips. Below are a few ways to help someone that appears to need help achieving mental wellness.

What Can you Do....

Get educated. Learn the facts about symptoms you experience or observe in someone else. Mental health needs are not the same in everyone and can manifest differently for each person. Everyone will not need a diagnose, hospitalization or medication.

Know who to call and when. There is only so much self medicating once can do before the symptoms become too much to manage. Simply talking about mental health will not give a person any ideas. Sometimes, someone initiating a discussion can break the ice and start the process. Know the resources in your community and call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department when the symptoms appear unmanageable.

Be supportive. If you are struggling with providing support, connect with someone that is empathetic to you and can possibly lead you in the right direction. There are a number treatments available and it takes courage to seek the help. The difference between someone seeking help or silently fighting can be the support of one helpful individual.

Be aware of your own judgements and prejudices. We all have them; and unfortunately many come from other uneducated individuals passing on poor information. Be honest about your own shame and guilt about mental health so that you can be an active participant in ending the stigma.

Listen, listen, listen. Whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not - we all want to be heard. We all want to know that someone is listening to us and/or trying to understand what we need. Just because you don’t understand the symptoms does not mean you are not able to help.

Support mental health organizations and providers. Many organizations close due to funding and lack of community support. Volunteering your time and/or money goes a long way to provide resources for those in need of services. You may not know who you helped specifically but your contribution can help other professionals and volunteers with ending the negative stigma.

Mental health care and treatment is a universal issue and awareness is one of the critical pieces to making treatment available.