Is Codependency an Addiction?

Codependency as an Addiction

At Smarmore Castle in Ireland, Learn About Codependency, Its Effects, and Detox Treatment Options

Is Codependence an Addiction? What Are Its Psychological Effects?

Codependency is when one or both people in a relationship are mentally, emotionally, or physically dependent on the other. It can sometimes be called ‘relationship addiction’ or ‘love addiction’, and it can affect any relationship, whether romantic, platonic, or part of a family set-up.

Is codependency an addiction and is it hard to identify it? – after all, it’s normal to feel you’d be lost without your partner. Isn’t that called being in love? But codependency is not just a yearning for your other half to brighten up your day, it’s an unhealthy imbalance when one person is a caregiver and puts their own needs to one side, and the other party takes advantage.

Codependency is often prevalent in substance misuse and addiction. In fact, the term codependency was actually coined at Alcoholics Anonymous. This doesn’t mean that every relationship which features addiction is codependent, but there is a strong link.

Examples of this connection could be the partner of the person with an alcohol use disorder who might make excuses for their spouse’s bad behaviour or support them financially if they are unable to hold down a job. It could be the child of a drug-addicted adult who has to act as a caregiver as their parent is too off their head to take responsibility. Or it could be the friend who encourages their best mate to start taking drugs with them so they can enjoy the party together.

is codependency an addiction

Signs of Codependency

Codependent relationships don’t form overnight ­– they tend to be the result of a pattern of behaviour. Here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Putting someone else’s needs above your own. It’s nice to treat your partner and make them feel special, but if you’re always prioritising their needs over yours, trying to ‘fix’ or ‘rescue’ them, it can be a sign of co-dependency.  The more you do for them, the more they will rely on you, and before you know it your whole focus becomes looking after them.
  • Needing your partner’s approval all the time. Having low self-worth, thinking very little of yourself and only feeling happy when you’ve pleased your partner are all signs of co-dependency. You’re literally dependent on another person making you feel fulfilled and having a purpose in life. That is not healthy.
  • Worrying your partner will leave you all the time. If you feel you can’t ever be honest with your partner, or put your own needs first because if you do your partner will leave you, it is a sign you’re in an imbalanced relationship. It is also more likely that you will do what your partner wants to ensure they stay with you. This can include covering up for their substance misuse, taking drugs with them or being hurt and abused.
  • Lacking boundaries. Relationships should always be respectful – no matter how close you are. If you lack boundaries you might agree to do things you don’t want to, just to please the other person. You might allow yourself to be manipulated, or even abused. Having boundaries means you respect the other person to make their own decisions.
  • Chance of substance abuse playing a part A codependent relationship can look perfectly normal from outside, but it can destroy your mental health and self-worth, put you in physical danger and, if substance abuse plays a part in your relationship, drive you further into addiction.

It can be treated. At Smarmore Castle, we are experts in dealing with co-dependency and drug use.

Types of Codependency

Codependency is complex and isn’t completely black and white. Here are two main types:

  1. Passive codependency. Scared of conflict, the passive codependent can be easily controlled. They have low self-esteem, are scared of being alone, and can stay in relationships with people who manipulate or abuse them.
  2. Active codependency. Argumentative and manipulative, the active codependent tends to control their partner. They might lie to meet their own needs, even if that has a detrimental effect on other people. Although these types might seem completely different, they are actually quite similar: they’re both insecure, they both feel powerless, and they’re both stuck in a dysfunctional relationship.

Codependency types can be broken down further:

  • Anorexia codependency. So-called because in order to avoid these unhealthy relationships, they starve themselves of love and other aspects of intimacy. However, rather than starting a new healthy equal partnership, they soon fall back into old habits and return to codependency.
  • Cerebral codependency. They focus on education and ‘transformational’ experiences to escape codependency. They feel the answer can be found in external information when the answer is actually found within, by delving into their own past and their own behaviours with targeted therapy.
  • Oblivious codependency. They live by the mantra ‘ignorance is bliss’ and ignore the root problems of their dysfunctional relationship. This is fine for a short while but to understand and remove yourself from a codependent relationship, you need a personalised treatment plan at somewhere like Smarmore Castle.
  • You are not born codependent – it is a trait developed over many years and it often stems from past experience. Often this is a traumatic childhood in which you felt neglected or controlled by your own parent in your own codependent relationship. Codependency repeats itself, just like other addictions do.

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Codependent Relationships and Addiction

Studies show that co-dependency is higher in relationships with an addicted partner than in relationships where neither partner has a substance use disorder. This might be because passive codependents are drawn to people they can ‘fix’ and if you have a substance use disorder, you certainly need help. But you need expert help with trained addiction therapists at a rehab centre, such as Smarmore Castle.  

Asking a friend or partner to help fix your drug or alcohol addiction is like asking them to fix your broken leg. They aren’t qualified to do that and could do more damage than good.

In these imbalanced relationships, one partner tends to enable the other’s poor behaviour. If that includes addiction, the ‘passive codependent’ fosters the substance abuse by covering up for them, paying for their drugs or drink or refusing to confront them about it, for fear they may leave them.

The result is that not only does the addicted party never break free from their substance abuse, they actually have someone helping them get deeper involved. That person feels loved, needed and rewarded for helping, and the spiral of codependency continues.

In a codependent relationship, neither party can function healthily on their own.

Reaching Out

Our caring admissions team are here to answer your questions in complete confidentiality.

Are You Codependent?

It is natural for us to want to help our loved ones, so you could say we all have some codependent tendencies. Just like you can enjoy a drink, and can even get rip-roaringly drunk and not have an addiction to alcohol.

If you ask yourself ‘What are the stages of addiction?’, they mirror the stages of codependency. One minute everything – be it drink, drugs or a relationship – is fine and enjoyable and the next it has taken control of your life.

There are a number of signs that you may be codependent.

If you are always putting the needs of another ahead of your own, even to the detriment of your own mental, physical or financial health, this could be a sign that you are codependent.

If you feel unable to communicate your wants and needs to your partner, and you feel guilt or anxiety if you don’t please them, this is another red flag.

On the flipside, do you feel the need to control another person? Do you start arguments if your loved one doesn’t do as you say? This is a sure sign that you’re codependent.

If you say yes to some or all of these, you might think you have a codependent personality and you’ll just have to live with it. This is not the case.

With therapy at Smarmore Castle, you will learn how to deal with the root causes of your co-dependency – such as childhood trauma or feelings of neglect – and how to change your behaviour so you are free to establish healthy equal relationships in the future.

Negative Effects and Risks for the Codependent Partner

Both partners in a codependent relationship do themselves harm every second they stay in their dysfunctional relationship.

If you are the person putting everyone else’s needs in front of your own, feeling responsible for their happiness and trying desperate to fix all the problems you are neglecting your own needs and wants. Not only is your self-worth rock bottom but you will be plagued with burnout, perfectionism, inability to say no, loneliness and an exaggerated sense of responsibility.

If you are the person controlling your partner, becoming angry when your needs aren’t met to a standard of your liking and lying to get your own way, your behaviour may develop into coercive control and/or physical abuse. You could be a great risk to your partner.

Getting Help for Codependency and Drug Abuse

If you are in a codependent relationship and you have a drug or alcohol addiction, you have what is known as a dual diagnosis. This means you have two things to treat rather than one and while you might think it will be impossible to solve both issues, it isn’t. With the right help, it can be done.

Codependency, or love addiction, is as serious as any other addiction, in that it is difficult to kick and can destroy your life and mental health. Codependents Anonymous is an established organisation full of useful information and expert help. Contact them for support and they may be able to introduce you to other like-minded people and recovering codependents. You need to realise that you are not alone.

If you are living with codependency alongside substance abuse, you need intense targeted treatment to understand the reasons behind your dual addiction. Once you understand and recognise why you’re in the situation you are in, you can learn how to alter your behaviour so you avoid making the same choices next time.

Smarmore Castle in Ireland offers bespoke addiction treatment with a range of therapies aimed at your individual circumstances. By moving into our facility set in the beautiful Irish countryside, you can focus on understanding and overcoming your codependent traits while, at the same time, undergoing a supervised medical detox to ensure you are freed from your drug or drink addiction.

We are experts in treating codependency and drug addiction. And our care doesn’t stop when you leave. We offer a continuing care programme for a further year to prevent you from falling back into old habits. We’re here for you.

If you, or someone you love, is in a codependent relationship and dealing with a drug or drink addiction, call Smarmore Castle on 041 214 5111 for free non-judgmental advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Codependency Love Addiction?

Yes, it is often referred to as that. Like any addiction, it is not healthy and can be destructive.

Is Codependency a Mental Disorder?

No. However, being mentally unwell can lead to codependency and being in a codependent relationship can make you mentally unwell.

Is Being Codependent Toxic?

Yes. It is harmful to your wellbeing, and mental health, and can be a danger to you physically. 

Why Is Co-dependency So Addictive?

It is a learned behaviour that develops over time, and is often a response to a past trauma or feelings of neglect that haven’t been dealt with properly.


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  2. Sullivan K, (2018), The Structure of Codependency and its Relationship to Narcissism, Journal of Heart Centered Therapies, 21 (1)
  3. Panaghi L, Ahmadabadi Z, Khosravi N, et al, (2016), Living with Addicted Men and  Codependency: the Moderating Effect of Personality Traits, Addict Health: 8 (2), 98-106
  4. Lancer D, Symptoms of Codependency,
  5. Kaplan V, (2023), Mental Health States of Housewives: an Evaluation in Terms of Self-Perception and Codependency, Int J Mental Health Addict: 21 (1), 666-683
  6. Walker K, Sleath E, Tramontano C, (2017), The Prevalence and Typologies of Controlling Behaviours in a General Population Sample, Journal of Interpersonal Violence: 36 (1-2)
  7. Woody G, 1996, The Challenge of Dual Diagnosis, Alcohol Health Res World, 20 (02), 76-80
  8. Codependents Anonymous

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