When thinking of codependency, most people assume it’s more common in women than in men. However, studies show small or no differences between men and women. That said, codependent behaviors can arise from the traits and characteristics that are culturally approved and encouraged for women.

As an example, women are expected to put others first, care for those who are dependent and make life easier for their husband and children. Some women go overboard and develop unhealthy relationships. These relationships fill the desire to be wanted and needed.

Even though codependency is common, it can cause a lot of problems for people. It’s difficult to have healthy relationships, and it can be passed down to younger generations. This is why codependency should be taken seriously and treated with counseling, support and guidance. La Ventana offers a specialized treatment program that addresses codependent behaviors and sets our clients up for success.

Understanding Codependency and its Role in Relationships

Codependency is often called “relationship addiction” because it’s essentially an addiction to a relationship. Codependent relationships are typically one-sided, emotionally destructive and sometimes even abusive. They can exist between parents and children, husbands and wives or in the friends of people with substance abuse issues.

So, what separates normal caring and concern from codependency? Here are the signs and symptoms of being in a codependent relationship.

  • Low self-esteem. People in codependent relationships often feel they’re not good enough. However, these negative thoughts aren’t always shown on the outside. Some people are very good at pretending to think highly of themselves, when really, they feel unloveable. The relationship they are dependent on provides a sense of purpose.
  • People-pleasing nature. It’s human nature to want to please others, but codependents take things a step further. They feel that saying no is not an option. As a result, codependents often sacrifice their own needs to help others.
  • Lack of boundaries. Another thing codependents struggle with is setting boundaries. This gets them into trouble because their boundaries are often weak and people take advantage. At times, their boundaries may be strict but then fall back to being weak.
  • Reactive responses. Because there are no boundaries, codependents absorb what others say. They can become defensive or angry, especially when they feel their efforts are not recognized.
  • Control. Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. They want others to behave a certain way so that they feel okay. Even though codependents put others first, it is usually for selfish reasons. Their people-pleasing and caretaking nature is actually used to manipulate others.

There are many more signs of codependency, but these are some of the most prominent. In short, people who are codependent disregard their own needs in favor of someone else. They use relationships to feel wanted and loved, but this leads to unhealthy, unstable connections.

What Causes Some Women to Be Codependent

The risk for codependency generally begins in childhood. Young children are impressionable and learn about relationships from what is being modeled to them. Some children grow up in happy, stable households. Others do not. Sadly, kids who grow up in dysfunctional homes often believe they don’t matter or they are the cause of the family’s problems.

Dysfunctional families tend to have some of these traits:

  • Chaotic and unpredictable
  • Overly harsh or abusive
  • Unsupportive or judgemental
  • Emotionally or physically neglectful
  • Manipulative
  • Secretive

When children are told there isn’t a problem (and they know there is), they become confused and think it has to do with them. Some children are blamed or shamed and grow up believing they are the problem. As a result, young kids in these situations feel incapable, unworthy or unloved. This belief system sets the stage for codependent relationships in the future.

The good news is that these dysfunctional childhoods do not have to follow women into their futures. With talk therapy, support and guidance, women can develop healthy relationships and even reverse those with codependent tendencies.

How Codependency is Treated

It’s important that codependency is treated, especially if it’s coupled with a co-occurring mental health disorder or substance use disorder. Not only is treatment important for the individual but also the family in general. This behavioral pattern can be passed down through generations.

La Ventana is a mental health treatment center that offers codependent treatment for women. Aside from psychotherapy, we also provide family and group therapy, which tends to work well for treating codependent relationships. Here is more information on the treatments we suggest.

  • Psychotherapy. Codependency generally forms for a reason. It’s often deep rooted in a person’s childhood, so psychotherapy is aimed at exploring these issues. Clients come to terms with childhood trauma and rediscover themselves. They also work on identifying self-defeating behaviors and reconstructing family dynamics.
  • Group therapy. Support groups are centered on helping people break destructive cycles. In group therapy, clients learn from each other and practice essential life skills like setting boundaries, saying no and recognizing the difference between “supporting” and “saving.”
  • Family therapy. Because most codependent relationships are between family members, family therapy is an important resource. Together, families can work through the underlying reasons for the codependency, such as addiction, physical or mental abuse or mental or physical illness.
  • Self-care. At La Ventana, we also teach our clients how to care for themselves and put their needs first for a change. Self-care includes healthy eating, daily exercise and the enjoyment of hobbies and activities.

La Ventana works with individuals in all types of codependent relationships. As a dual diagnosis treatment center, we are also equipped to treat codependency along with co-occurring disorders like substance abuse, depression or anxiety. Contact us today to learn more about our outpatient mental health treatment programs.