Find out if you're becoming addicted to being needed, and what to do about it.

Definition of Co-dependency

Co-dependency is a condition that results in a dysfunctional relationship between the co-dependent and other people (addicts or alcoholics). 

A co-dependent is addicted to helping someone.  They need to be needed.  This addiction is sometimes so strong; the co-dependent will cause the other person to continue to be needy.  This behaviour is called enabling.  The enabler will purposefully overlook someone abusing a child, will call in sick for someone suffering from addiction, will put roadblocks to prevent their child from becoming independent, or even keep a sick family member from getting the treatment that would make them well.  These are behaviours common to co-dependents.  A co-dependent often suffers from a 'Messiah Complex' where he sees problems with everyone and sees himself as the only person who can help. Trying to be 'Mr. Fix it' for everyone...even those who don't feel they need anything fixed.

Co-dependency Test: Take this test to find out if you're helping people who need or needing people to help:

  1. Do you feel demeaned, hurt or offended when someone you love tells you they don't need your help?
  2. In the last year, has anyone resorted to arguing, begging or raising their voice to get you to stop trying to help them?
  3. If you had plenty of money and your child, sibling or parent had an addiction to drinking, spending, gambling or drugs, and they asked you for money to help with their necessary expenses (food, rent, clothes, and bills), would you give them the money?
  4. When someone shares a life or relationship problem with you, but doesn't ask for help, do you offer help or advice, anyway?
  5. When you survey your relationships, do you find yourself surrounded by mostly people who need you?
  6. Do you ever find yourself making excuses for the needy people in your life?
  7. If someone you love has a substance abuse, emotional, spending or gambling problem, do you avoid confronting them?
  8. Do you measure your self-esteem by how much someone depends on you?
  9. Do you ever remind people where they would be without you?

A. If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, read the rest of this article and monitor yourself for the next 3 months to verify your answers.

B. If you answered 'yes' to 3 or more of the above, you may have a co-dependency problem.  Read the rest of this article, reach out to a good counsellor (available at Hope Trust), and read a couple books on the subject of co dependence (also available at Hope Trust).

C. If you answered 'yes' to 5 or more of the above, then maybe it is best if you start attending self-help groups such as Al-anon. Ask your counsellor at Hope Trust for addresses.

Causes of Co-dependency

Many co-dependents, like other addicts, blame the people around them for their problem, or, more accurately, use them to deny their problem.  'I'm not co-dependent; I just love them so much.'  'It's just that they need so much help.'  'They couldn't get along without me.'  Let's face the facts... the needy people in your life need to learn to take care of themselves, take responsibility for their own problems and begin to solve them.  If you'd stop bailing them out, they'd learn to handle life's challenges, themselves. So, actually, you're hurting them!  (We’re not talking about a rare emergency situation...we're talking about a lifestyle of neediness.) Co-dependency, like any other addiction, is caused by a feeling of emptiness...a low self-esteem.  Instead of a drug, a co-dependent uses the needs of others to make they feel whole.  That's why no one around them is allowed to recover...the co-dependent wouldn't be needed.

Cure for Co-dependency

The only cures for co-dependency require finding the genuine, healthy sources for a positive self-esteem; to replace the negative ones is a co-dependency recovery workbook that can be very helpful in the recovery process.  You also have to learn how to 'wean' your needy people off of your help.  This is a dysfunctional relationship, and often results in the 'needy' person abandoning the co-dependent.  Although very painful, this is better for both people...forcing them to find better sources of fulfilment.  It's good for the co-dependent to find productive and fulfilling activities that don't involve satisfying needy people.  This can be done with sporting activities, art, school, etc.  Finding a job for yourself is also a good idea. There are many ways to be productive without attachment to a chronically needy person.

The Hope Family Support Program

It is common for partners or parents of alcoholics and addicts to develop traits of co-dependency. The Family Support Program at Hope Trust helps in identifying one’s typical co-dependency traits and guides the family members in healing with the help of experienced therapists.