I believe firmly that it is only a matter of time before codependency becomes a recognised disorder. As discussed many times by this author, I have been challenged on occasions to prove that codependency truly exists and is not just a symptom of another disorder. The many clients I have who show similar debilitating symptoms that are associated with enmeshment and the typical childhood scenario that fosters this are testimony to the devastating effects of codependency. The fact is that many, many people suffer from this thing called codependency or the “love addiction” and that cannot be disputed.
Far from being a symptom of another disorder, we can look at this issue from another angle. Many codependents will develop other issues as a direct result of their codependency. In the never ending quest for connection with a string of partners who are mostly emotionally distant, a myriad of other complaints can arise complicating the codependent issues they have.
- Depression: Many codependents I treat have depression. The world is often a confusing place for them. A world where they do all they can to please with very little validation (one of the main issues of codependency is helping with expected return of validation). While it is not healthy at all to look outside of oneself for validation, codependents until treated effectively are on an endless quest for just that, mirroring the relationships they had as children with neglectful parents. This never-ending grind to obtain connection can be a frustrating experience often leading to a depressive state. This is often fuelled by typical self-talk. “What’s wrong with me?” “Why does this always happen to me?”
- Anxiety. Anxiety is often present during a relationship with a narcissist and after. Codependents are very conscious of changes in their environment around their emotionally distant partner and anxiously look for change in moods, etc. This enables them to adapt their behaviour to these changes. The anxiety comes from the typical insecurity that codependents carry as a core wound which is often around abandonment issues. Anxiety after the relationship finishes is often centred around contact with the narcissist and the gaslighting that is often associated with their interaction, especially when children are involved.
- Anger Issues. Codependents can be very angry people when they perceive failure in their attempts to fix others. Sometimes, this anger is internalised and exhibited in passive aggressiveness but often it externalised in rage and voice raising. This is due to the feeling that the sacrifice and giving is not having the desired effect or return. It is part of the drama triangle often associated with controlling codependency.
- Fear. This plays a major factor in the way a codependent thinks. They often have a fear of being alone, abandoned, being intimate and being emotionally honest. This fear will keep them in a dysfunctional, often abusive relationship and they will avoid positive change.
- Learned Helplessness. Part of the drama triangle that is often present around codependents, is the concept of victimhood. The drama triangle suggests that after a “fixing” episode hasn’t produced the desired return, anger follows and then victimhood. Many codependents I know have taken this a stage further and play the “perpetual victim”. They naturally take the stance that they are incapable of “doing” and need constant help and attention to do the most meagre tasks. This, of course, is another control method aimed at getting the connection they need.