codependent relationships

What are Codependent Relationships?

Although there is no diagnosis for Codependency in the DSM-V, it can be a useful concept in understanding how some individuals involved in codependent relationships with alcoholic or abusive spouses are often suffering from their own parallel pathological processes. Codependent individuals are most often female and have extremely high instances of suffering from depression and anxiety. The criteria for Codependency is as follows:

1) The investment of self-worth in controlling others in adverse situations
2) Meeting the needs of others without considering one’s own needs
3) Experiencing extreme anxiety around issues of intimacy and separation
4) Being in an enmeshed relationship with persons with personality disorders or substance abuse problems

Other related indicators include substance abuse, anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, stress-related illnesses, and compulsive behaviors.

Codependent Relationships

People in codependent relationships, at least on a conscious level, are repeatedly breaking boundaries to control and “save” the alcoholic from themselves. Such behaviors would include throwing full bottles of alcohol down the drain, calling in for their loved one at his or her work after a bender, or posting bail for him or her after they have been incarcerated multiple times. They complain incessantly that the alcoholic is ruining their life with his or her drinking, and believe that if their partner simply stopped the destructive behavior, their life together would be normal, healthy, and happy.

In truth, most people in codependent relationships mentally decompensate when their partner is able to stop drinking successfully. Once their spouse has stopped drinking, they lose all sense of control in the relationship, which is frightening and anxiety-inducing. The chaos in the alcoholic relationship is also normative for people in codependent relationships and often addictive. Many will admit that the best sexual encounters occur in the relationship when the other partner is using or drinking and things are at their emotionally most chaotic.

codependent relationships

How to Treat Codependency

It is often said that alcoholism is a family disease, and there is much truth in this idea. People in codependent relationships tend to respond very well to all forms of treatment, including 12 Step programs such as Al-Anon as well as psychodynamic psychotherapy. Co-dependent individuals tend to be caring, loving, people, and it is important to encourage the co-dependent person to accept psychological intervention, as their needs are so often overlooked by themselves and their spouses. Clinicians often overlook their needs as well, as they are superficially compliant and are not acting out actively like their spouses, who are more likely to garner the professional’s concern and attention.

Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW, provides couples counseling, divorce counseling for those suffering from codependency and other diagnoses in the Newport Beach, Irvine, and Orange County area. Please contact her at (949) 251-8797 if you are interested in making an appointment.

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Chris B.5.0
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Kids are always hard and as a parent it's not always easy to see objectively what is really going on. Jennifer helped me talk through challenges/issues with my oldest son that were running through my head. In the end she provided me a solid perspective to build on and because of that I have been able to manage the situation much better. Easy conversation and very helpful.
Ravenna S.5.0
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Jennifer is such a wonderful and genuine therapist. She is extremely kind and understanding. She comprehends couple and mental health problems precisely. I would definitely recommend her to anyone that is seeking help.
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Jennifer is such a wonderful and genuine therapist. She is extremely kind and understanding. She comprehends couple and mental health problems precisely. I would definitely recommend her to anyone that is seeking help.
Timothy 5.0
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I have been seeing Jennifer De Francisco for about a year, and she has helped me so much with the unhappiness I thought would never go away. Jennifer’s compassion and empathy made me feel safe enough to open up and talk about the uncomfortable feelings I didn’t even know were causing my sadness. With Jennifer’s help, I am now aware of my negative thoughts. Instead of avoiding them, I can work through them. She has helped change my life.
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It was tough when we first started with Jennifer , but through difficult conversations and understanding some of the causes of how closed off we were to each other, we worked through it and are in a good place. The idea that we could break up is the furthest thing from my mind now, and going in to work on our relationship was the best thing to do. One of the things that really helped was that I felt Jennifer really cared that our relationship worked and that we improved things between us. I think that is rare, and always helped me not give up hope.
George S.5.0
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I know people hate to hear this, but relationships take work, especially with kids and stress. I would suggest relationship counseling for any married couple, even if it were just monthly or when things get tough. We continue to see Jennifer after our initial problem because it keeps us on track. Best of luck to all couples looking for help- Jennifer is a wonderful resource.