How Does Cocaine Cause Anxiety?

The American Psychiatric Association estimates that anxiety affects nearly one-third of all adults. It can be caused by genetics, environmental factors, and even the substances people use to ease their minds: drugs. Does cocaine cause anxiety? Yes, but that’s not all it does. In addition to increased anxiety, cocaine use has been linked to chronic stress, panic attacks, and other mental health disorders. And since the brain and body are in a constant feedback loop, your corroded mental health can have very real (and very dangerous) physical effects on the body that can impair your overall health.


Cocaine-Induced Anxiety Disorders

When people turn to recreational drugs like cocaine as a means of stress relief, what actually happens under the hood is anything but relaxing. To put it simply, cocaine puts the body in an artificial state of stress that directly interferes with the brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels. The disruption of these chemicals is what can cause the development of mood and anxiety disorders.  


What Is An Anxiety Disorder?

An anxiety disorder is when a person’s fight-or-flight instinct is activated inappropriately (when there are no rational stressors or threats) and hinders them from normal functioning. Cocaine and other stimulants, and even some medications, can cause heightened feelings of anxiety that occur during the onset or withdrawal of the drug. 

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for anxiety, but medication, psychiatric treatment, and a healthy lifestyle can go a long way towards managing this neurological imbalance.


Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive or irrational worry 

How Cocaine Causes Anxiety

The mechanisms that enable cocaine to elicit feelings of euphoria, increase confidence, heighten alertness, and fight off fatigue are the same ones involved in the body’s physical response to stress and are known as the “fight-or-flight response”. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone largely responsible for this survival instinct, is one that is directly affected by cocaine. 

In small doses, cortisol is helpful; t keeps your body primed for action and can enhance both physical and cognitive performance. However, if cortisol levels are sustained for an extended period, it quickly becomes harmful. Cortisol interferes with serotonin, an important aspect of mood stabilization, happiness, and general feelings of well-being. It also disrupts dopamine levels, a crucial neurotransmitter involved with motivation, reward, and is closely tied to addiction. Cocaine not only sustains cortisol levels in the body but can result in higher levels of this hormone’s secretion making the situation even more dangerous.


How Cortisol Affects Your Mood

Cortisol reduces the number of serotonin receptors, thereby causing serotonin levels to fall. Serotonin is involved with a number of important functions from sleep regulation to memory. However, serotonin is perhaps best known for its starring role in mood stabilization.  Low serotonin levels are known to lead to anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Dopamine levels, however, rise in the presence of cortisol, which is why cocaine can cause those initial feelings of euphoria. Too much of anything, however, even a good thing like dopamine, can have drastic consequences. High levels of dopamine can cause nervousness, irritability, aggressiveness, and paranoia.

These neurological imbalances can have major physiological impacts as well, making the body more susceptible to feeling stressed in the first place. In a two-pronged attack, cocaine perpetuates this harmful cycle, keeping your body in a prolonged state of stress and disrupts your body to come down from it.


Cocaine Is A Stressful Stimulant

Looking to take the edge off? If you’re using cocaine to do it, you’re actually sabotaging your efforts. Cocaine isn’t just a poor choice of stress relief, but it can actually be a source of stress.  In addition to giving your bad anxiety, cocaine can lead to long-standing mental health disorders whose accompanying physical ailments are stressful all their own. Cocaine is a nightmare for your mental well-being. Contact a drug treatment center to help safely discontinue cocaine use and to learn healthier and effective stress coping mechanisms. 

Stress and Addiction Relapse: The Enemy of Sobriety

Stress is a negative emotional state that affects far more than just your mental health. It takes quite a toll physically as well. Stress is known to cause and aggravate a number of serious health issues. These include heart disease, diabetes, depression, and even Alzheimer’s. When it comes to addiction recovery, stress isn’t just a silent killer but a disruptive feeling that can sabotage your efforts. Read on to learn about the interconnectedness of stress and addiction relapse and how it might be the reason you struggle to stay sober.


How Stress Can Lead To Addiction

To better understand how stress can underscore attempts to get (and stay) sober, we must first look into how it can contribute to addiction in the first place. In most instances of alcohol or drug addiction, it’s brought about by a person using a substance as a coping mechanism for stress. Studies have shown that individuals who resort to such behavior typically are more easily overwhelmed by stressors and have difficulty communicating their emotions. As such, these individuals turn to mind-altering substances as a means to self-medicate. 

While drugs and alcohol may provide temporary mental relief, they ultimately make things worse–and not because of the social or financial ramifications substance abuse can bring about. Drugs interfere with serotonin and dopamine production, the same neurotransmitters that regulate mood. This interference results in individuals becoming even more sensitive to stressful situations and more prone to stress. The same mechanism simultaneously makes individuals more susceptible to becoming addicted to a substance in the first place, contributing to this harmful cycle on two fronts.


How Stress Affects Key Neurotransmitters

Another major contributing factor of how stress can influence addiction and relapse is highlighted in the relationship between stress and psychiatric disorders. The complex relationship between drugs and mental illness is widely recognized. It often leads to a negative feedback loop which is why specialized treatment programs like dual diagnosis are necessary and addiction in the face of mental illness can not be treated in isolation.  

So where does stress come into the equation? Many of the same neurological imbalances that can be found in individuals with PTSD, anxiety disorders, and other types of mood disorders are similar to the neurological effects of stress. Cortisol, a stress hormone, has been shown to inhibit serotonin receptors, an important hormone involved with mood stabilization, feelings of happiness, and well-being; and lower dopamine production, a vital neurotransmitter involved with the reward center of the brain and impulse control. A shortage of either of these important chemicals is largely attributed as the primary culprit behind a variety of mental illnesses. 

These findings are corroborated by several studies that found individuals with depression usually have above-average levels of cortisol in their system. Further, individuals with chronic stress are prone to developing depression. For an individual with a mental illness who already uses drugs, the additional presence of stress can be disastrous to their brain chemistry and push them even further over the edge, causing them to reach for instant gratification regardless of the negative consequences that may follow.


Stress and Addiction is A Dangerous Cocktail

The ways that stress can influence addiction relapse are twofold. First, it can disrupt important neurotransmitters that would otherwise allow you to have a healthy stress response. Second, it blocks serotonin intake, which can cause you to feel bad and overwhelmed to the point that you need drugs to cope. Finally, it also reduces dopamine levels which can strengthen one’s feeling that they “need” a drug and lead to reduced impulse control–a key factor in preventing addiction relapse. 

However, that’s not to say that stress itself is the enemy. Stress is a normal and natural part of being human. What’s important is learning how to effectively manage stress in a healthy manner. No matter who you are, what you do, or where you come from, you will be faced with stressful situations in your life. Being able to overcome addiction requires adopting new ways of dealing with those moments which then minimizes the temptation to relapse. But such a major rewiring of behavior isn’t something you can do on your own. An addiction treatment counselor can help you identify the particular triggers that cause you to turn to drug use and pinpoint the behavior that needs fixing.



The Effects of Psychological Stress on Depression

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety is a normal and naturally occurring feeling that arises when people are faced with challenging circumstances. However, when this feeling continues to persist once the stressor has been removed it falls under the realm of an anxiety disorder, a type of mental illness. Conditions like anxiety and depression are known for having a complex (and often precarious) relationship with alcohol. Anxiety attacks, one of the side effects of these disorders, are similarly affected by the substance, making their occurrences more frequent and more intense. 

What Is An Anxiety Attack?

An anxiety attack is a condition described as an intense and sometimes debilitating stress response that can cause a myriad of physical and psychological symptoms. The reported side effects can vary significantly from person to person, but many have been said to make individuals feel like they can’t breathe or move, and be accompanied by a racing pulse, excessive sweating, dizziness, shaking, and numbness. 

Anxiety attacks aren’t formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which means there isn’t a clearcut definition of what an anxiety attack is or feels like. 


Can Alcohol Cause Anxiety Attacks? 

The exact cause of anxiety attacks is unknown therefore it cannot be said for certain whether alcohol can induce such reactions. However, there is a direct overlap between the neurotransmitters affected by alcohol and the ones that are involved in anxiety itself, which is why alcohol is reported to be a very likely aggravator of this condition. 

Dopamine, serotonin, and GABA all play a  major role in mood regulation which puts them at the center of how stress works. Individuals with depression and anxiety are often found to have lower levels of these chemicals. However, alcohol is known to depress or otherwise disrupt these same neurotransmitters and can cause an already negative situation to go from bad to worse. These individuals are not only more susceptible to stress, but they feel it more acutely and more strongly, which increases the likelihood of developing a chronic anxiety disorder. This double trouble is why many believe that alcohol can cause anxiety attacks.     


How Alcohol Physiologically Contributes To Anxiety

Anxiety may be a feeling, but it manifests itself physically in the body in multiple ways. Heartbeat and blood pressure increase to get more blood to the muscles should they need to spring into action. The respiratory system kicks into high gear to bring in more oxygen to distribute in the blood. Your brain becomes extra alert and focused and cognition improves. Even your gastrointestinal system gets involved, resulting in a sudden urge to use the bathroom. 

All of these reactions are tied to the fight or flight response and can be beneficial in the moment. Once the threat has passed, your body is meant to return to normal with no harm done. For individuals with anxiety or chronic stress, this is not the case. Their body remains in this hyper-alert and tense state for an extended period of time. Eventually, the body can have a hard time remembering what “normal” is so the threshold between when someone is potentially triggered into an anxious state becomes smaller and smaller. Individuals become more susceptible to having an intense physical reaction to anxiety and stress.

Alcohol interferes with these physiological functions two-fold. The first of which is that alcohol replicates several of the same reactions that the body has to stress, such as raised blood pressure. Secondly, alcohol can prohibit the release of the hormone that signals the body to return to normal. Together, you’ve got a recipe for someone to be hyper-sensitive and alert–and stay that way for longer than they would have otherwise. 


Alcohol & Anxiety Don’t Mix

While it can not be said for certain whether alcohol can cause an anxiety attack, drinking certainly contributes to several of the factors that could lead one to be overly anxious and hypersensitive to stressors. The relationship between alcohol abuse and mental illness is well-known but can be tricky to treat. Dual diagnosis treatment programs are specialized to address the unique nuances of mental health and substance abuse. Contact us today to learn more. 



World Bipolar Day: How You Can Help

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder and chronic mental illness that was previously known as manic-depressive disorder. It is characterized by severe swings in mood, energy, and activity levels. While these changes are natural and happen to everyone, for individuals with bipolar disorder, these shifts are far more drastic. So much so that they impede their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks which can wreak havoc on personal, professional, and romantic relationships if left unchecked. 

These episodes of mania, depression, or both at the same time, can be unpredictable, occurring sporadically (and some as infrequently as only a few times per year). When they do occur, individuals can find themselves in that state for up to weeks at a time. In some cases, there are psychotic symptoms as well where a person hears, feels, or sees things that aren’t real. 


How Prevalent is Bipolar Disorder? (Statistics)

According to a recent report, it is believed that 46 million people worldwide are affected by bipolar disorder, about 1% of the global population. These numbers are very likely to be much higher, however, and are estimated to be closer to 7%. Why are the numbers so off? Diagnosing mental health disorders is challenging in and of itself and there is no singularly defined way to test for bipolar disorder. Additionally, it can occur on a spectrum and milder forms can be more difficult to properly detect.

Misdiagnoses (attributing the illness as something else) and underreporting are common with mental illness. Additionally, attitudes towards mental illness can vary by country and ethnicity and can affect whether a condition is properly diagnosed or even recognized as a mental illness at all. 

  • About 20% of the U.S. population reports having at least one depressive symptom a month; 4.4% experience bipolar disorder at some point (Source)
  • Australia, Brazil, United Kingdom, and Sweden have the highest rates of the population with bipolar disorder
  • 89.2% of adults with bipolar disorder had serious impairment, the highest rate of all mood disorders
  • Breakdown by gender: 52% are female, 47% are male
  • Women with bipolar disorder experience more depressive and “mixed” episodes than men
  • The median age of onset (when bipolar disorder occurs) is 25, most occur between the ages of 20 and 40
  • 90% of bipolar disorder cases happen before the age of 50; only 5% have an onset after 60 and 2.9% occurs in adolescents


How You Can Get Involved With World Bipolar Day

Everyone can participate in World Bipolar Day whether they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or not. Talking about it not only creates awareness which could potentially help people with undiagnosed cases recognize their own symptoms, but it also reduces the stigma and allows those individuals to feel comfortable going to seek treatment for their mood disorder. 


Social Media

One of the easiest ways to get involved is to start a dialogue online. The official World Bipolar Day hashtags are #biploarstrong and #WorldBipolarDay. You can also download official social media graphics to share on your accounts and like and follow the dedicated World Bipolar Day page on Facebook.


Wear A Ribbon

Create opportunities to speak on the topic by wearing the black and white striped ribbon for bipolar disorder awareness (a green ribbon is sometimes worn too as it is the international ribbon for mental health awareness). 


Educate Yourself

Impactful change can be something you do as an individual. A great way to support the World Bipolar Day mission is to simply learn how you can be supportive towards these individuals. This can be by:

  • Showing patience when they enter a depressive or manic state
  • Avoiding statements like “calm down” or “snap out of it
  • Encouraging them to seek professional help
  • Ensuring they continue with their treatment even when they’re feeling better


Promote & Share Bipolar Disorder Resources

A great way to be an ally is to help connect those in need with resources that can help. Nothing says “you’re not alone” as well as a support group. Organizations like DASA, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, have chapters all around the country that gives individuals with bipolar disorder an opportunity to share experiences, discuss coping skills, and more. Other organizations provide resources to help newly diagnosed bipolar individuals.


World Bipolar Day Can Save Lives

About half of individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder are left untreated in any given year. This is especially alarming considering that individuals are 15% more likely to attempt suicide, and 60% of individuals with a mental health disorder (including bipolar disorder) develop a substance use disorder. Depression (and severe depression) are closely related to this mood disorder. If undiagnosed, individuals often turn to self-medicating which can worsen feelings of depression and continue a harmful cycle of addiction. These are a few of the reasons why the lifespan expectancy of someone with bipolar disorder is reduced by 9.2 years.

Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or who are suspected to be) who also have a substance use disorder should undergo dual diagnosis treatment. This specialized form of addiction treatment uses a unique approach that takes into consideration how mental illness can influence, and often exacerbate, drug abuse. Learn more about whether dual diagnosis is right for you and what it entails. 



https://www.ncbi.nlm.niUndiagnosed Bipolar Disorder: New Syndromes and New 

Mixing Lithium & Alcohol

People who experience any health issue that is treated with pharmaceuticals, or really any drugs, need to be aware of the benefits and the risks. They also need to be aware of any drug interactions that may alter the efficacy of the medication or cause adverse effects. Lithium and how it interacts with alcohol is no exception to this rule.

What is Lithium?

Lithium – short for lithium carbonate – is a mood stabilizer that acts on the central nervous system to manage symptoms of mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. It is typically prescribed when antidepressants or other medications are not effective in treating the diagnosed condition.

Eskalith® is a brand-name lithium medication available in tablets, capsules, and liquid forms. Eskalith CR® and Lithobid® are the brand names of extended-release lithium tablets. 

Common Lithium Side Effects

  • Acne or rash
  • Changes in the ability to taste
  • Changes in appetite
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Dry mouth
  • Gas
  • Headache
  • Indigestion
  • Itchy sensations
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Noticeable weight changes
  • Overactive salivary glands
  • Pale skin
  • Restlessness
  • Sensitivity to cold temperatures
  • Stomach Pain
  • Swelling of the lips
  • Thinning or brittle fingernails 
  • Thinning of hair or hair loss

Lithium Toxicity

Also known as an overdose, lithium toxicity is when the concentration of lithium in the bloodstream increases to the point of severe and possibly deadly consequences. Signs and symptoms of lithium toxicity include:

  • Blackouts
  • Confusion
  • Crossed Eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness or drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Hand tremors
  • Headache
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Painful, cold, or discolored fingers and toes
  • Pounding noises inside the head
  • Seizures
  • Shortness of breath or chest tightness
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Vision changes

What Happens When You Mix Lithium & Alcohol

Although lithium toxicity is not common when taken as prescribed, mixing the medication with other substances can cause metabolic interactions that increase the risk of an overdose. Alcohol is one example of the substances that have negative interactions with lithium. 

Lithium and alcohol are both substances that act on the central nervous system. When taken together, they not only increase the concentration of lithium in the blood and increase the risk of an overdose, but they also cancel out the mood-stabilizing effects of lithium. Other consequences of mixing alcohol and lithium include thyroid issues and a sodium imbalance. For these reasons, it is not safe to consume lithium and alcohol at the same time and patients who are prescribed this mood stabilizer are advised to avoid alcohol consumption. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

About half of individuals who struggle with mental health issues also struggle with a co-occurring substance use disorder. These individuals are at an increased risk of overdose due to the potential effects of mixing their prescription medication with other substances, such as mixing lithium and alcohol. Additionally, dual diagnosis patients need assistance managing both of their conditions in a safe and effective manner. Someone who struggles with alcohol addiction and a mental health disorder may have a more difficult time overcoming substance abuse if they do not have their mental health in check. However, finding a medication regime to manage mental health without causing dangerous effects from alcohol consumption can be tricky.

Dual diagnosis treatment programs allow for clients with bipolar (or similar diagnosis) and an alcohol use disorder to receive treatment from a team of doctors that are experienced in creating safe and effective individualized treatment plans to meet each client’s unique needs.


Self Harm Awareness: Self-Injury & Addiction

March is recognized as Self Harm Awareness Month, a month dedicated to bringing awareness to something that happens across all genders, races, beliefs, and ages. One in five individuals will engage in self-injury in their lifetime, with the vast majority beginning during adolescence. 

What is Self Harm?

Deliberate or intentional harm to one’s self is referred to as self-harm or self-injury. Self-harm is different from suicide in that the intent is not to end their emotional pain with death, rather redirect emotional suffering. In other words, self-injury is used as an outlet or release mechanism. 

The most common method of self-harm is cutting on the arms, legs, wrists, or torso. Other forms of self-harm include: 

  • Hair pulling
  • Biting
  • Burning
  • Head-butting
  • Hitting
  • Carving
  • Scratching
  • Skin picking
  • Intentional interference with wound healing

Bringing Awareness to Self Harm

If you have struggled with self-harm or if you want to provide support to those who are struggling, bringing awareness to the issue is critical. Many times we don’t even know that someone we care about is hurting emotionally and physically. They may hide their injuries with clothing and make-up or even isolate themselves.

Bringing awareness to the issue in a non-judgemental and supporting manner may create a platform for more people to open up about their experiences and inspire others to get help. The orange ribbon is a symbol of Self Harm Awareness. Pin an orange ribbon to your shirt or purse throughout March, and any day of the year to symbolize Self Harm Awareness. It may spark a conversation where you can educate others on the subject or it can serve as a signal that you provide a safe space for individuals who do self-harm and need someone to talk to. 

Self Harm & Addiction

It is estimated that over 8% of people who follow through with self-harm also abuse drugs, but some consider self-harm a form of addiction in itself. Similar to some forms of substance abuse, self-harm is often used as a response to feelings of sadness or depression. By causing an injury, a cut or burn could produce feelings of relief and even a rush of pain-relieving endorphins, however, this immediate relief will likely be followed by feelings of shame and guilt. The highs and lows associated with self-harm lend themselves to a cycle of negative feelings, self-injury, relief, and more negative feelings. The obsession to cut or use other methods of self-harm is not much different than the use of drugs. On the flip side, the use of drugs or alcohol can be considered a form of self-harm too. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Self Harm & Addiction

Individuals who physically self-harm and abuse drugs or alcohol may be given a dual mental health diagnosis. If this is you, our team at Level Up can help. Our dual diagnosis program is designed to assist those who struggle with a substance use disorder along with other mental health issues. Our providers can work with you to address underlying struggles and set you on track for a healthier and happier future.

What Is Dual Diagnosis Anonymous?

Dealing with drug addiction is already a pretty hefty burden to bear. Having to wrestle with mental health issues on top of this can make the process even more difficult. Only recently has this condition, known as dual diagnosis, been recognized as needing a specialized treatment approach. Although many rehab facilities now offer dual diagnosis treatment programs, support for this condition outside of formal treatment was also far behind the likes of what exists for alcohol and narcotic abusers. Enter: Dual Diagnosis Anonymous (DDA). 


The Purpose of Dual Diagnosis Anonymous

Founded by Corbett Monica in 1996, Dual Diagnosis Anonymous was created for an underrepresented aspect of the recovering addict community. This group specifically caters to the complicated nuances of co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. While the social aspect of having peer support is beneficial for creating accountability, motivation, and positive encouragement, that’s not the only benefit. DDA adds another layer of support that specifically addresses how mental illness plays a role in their addiction. Substance-focused fellowship programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, almost solely base overcoming addiction on behavioral changes in respect to drug use. 


What Makes Dual Diagnosis Anonymous Different?

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-step program spawned a number of similarly structured support groups. Dual Diagnosis Anonymous is also based on these dozen well-known tenants and has many of the same traditional structures, procedures, and recovery philosophy. But DDA isn’t just the same organization with a different name. The founder made several deliberate changes to better meet the needs of addicts with mental illness.


Firstly, DDA has an emphasis on confidentiality in the group rules, whereas other groups only urge anonymity. The organization believes it’s important for discussions to stay within the group when mental illness is involved. Say, for instance, a DDA-er speaks about struggling with thoughts of self-harm. If not for the emphasis on confidentiality, other members could go report that member’s thoughts, which could, in turn, cause them to face repercussions. Confidentiality stresses that Dual Diagnosis Anonymous is a safe space where individuals can truly be honest and open.

Considerate of Newcomers

Another distinction that potential new Dual Diagnosis Anonymous members are sure to appreciate is that DDA goes out of its way to make introductions as painless as possible. Traditional 12-step fellowship programs encourage newcomers to identify themselves as those who have less than 30 days of sobriety under their belt. DDA is aware that its group members are highly sensitive, and that mental illness can amply feelings of embarrassment. Instead, they simply ask if there are any first-time attendees or guests without a single mention of how long they’ve been clean (or not).  


Modified 12 Steps (Plus 5 More)

Although Dual Diagnosis Anonymous is in no way affiliated with AA, they did receive permission to use the 12-steps as an official part of the organization. Steps 2 through 11 are identical to the original. Steps 1 and 12 have only a few minor tweaks that change any mention of “alcoholism” to “dual diagnosis”. Corbett Monica took things even further, however, with the creation of five brand new steps that are unique to DDA. Naturally, these steps focus on struggles specific to those with a mental illness such as medication. All Dual Diagnosis Anonymous readings can be read here.


Where Can I Find Dual Diagnosis Anonymous Meetings?

Dual Diagnosis Anonymous has expanded from its birthplace in Oregon to several states in the U.S. as well as internationally. Being a fairly young organization, it does not have as many or as widespread chapters as its older counterparts. As such, in-person meeting options are somewhat limited.

Fortunately, the organization is very virtual-friendly and hosts dozens of online Dual Diagnostic Anonymous meetings per day. Whether you are in a dual diagnosis rehab program or not, if you have a history of mental illness attending a DDA meeting could be a very helpful experience. 


Is Your Relationship Healthy? Signs of Codependency

Dysfunction Disguised as Devotion

While compromise and sacrifice are a normal part of any relationship, codependency can pervert these concepts to a point where they become detrimental or downright harmful to all parties involved. This harmful relationship dynamic can occur amongst romantic and non-romantic relationships alike but is a recurring theme in cases of substance abuse – like adding gas to a flame, it can quickly become dangerous and out of hand. Being able to identify the signs of codependency can be a significant step towards disrupting the powerful cycle of addiction. Learn the hallmark characteristics of codependent behavior and how this disorder manifests itself in relationships. 

What Is Codependency? 

Codependency is defined as an emotional and behavioral disorder where individuals have “one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive” relationships (source). A codependent person is a perpetual “giver” whose sense of identity is closely tied to their role in the relationship. The giver constantly puts their partner’s needs and desires above their own and also over assumes responsibility and liability for the other person’s well-being. When coupled with a more dominant person, the relationship can become very toxic, quite quickly. 

They are often to be considered serial daters and do whatever it takes to maintain and tend to seek partners where they feel needed. This often results in codependent individuals seeking out those that need “rescuing” – such as addicts. Coupled with their desire to find validation through their partners, codependent partners often inadvertently become enablers: making excuses for their partners’ derisive actions, giving them money or substances out of a feeling of guilt, or simply turning a blind eye. 

Recognizing the Signs of Codependency

In the scope of the relationship, codependency manifests itself as an excessive or compulsive-level of caretaking coupled with a complete disregard for one’s own self. The codependent person is entirely consumed with their relationship and whose extreme dedication often results in the neglect of other relationships, their career, everyday responsibilities, and their own aspirations.

The underlying cause of codependency is rooted in low self-esteem which can appear as severely needy, clingy, and affirmation-seeking behavior. As with any other mental health disorder, the severity of this behavior can vary from person-to-person and not all symptoms may necessarily be present. Signs of codependency may include:

  • Constantly in a relationship and are immediately devoted no matter how recent the relationship is
  • Drawn to “bad boy” or “bad girl” types
  • Are compulsive people-pleasers
  • Feel a need to be liked by everyone
  • Abandon their hobbies whenever they get into a relationship
  • Over-exaggerated sense of responsibility for others
  • A sense of uselessness if there’s nothing wrong
  • Constantly seeking approval or praise
  • Doesn’t end relationships after betrayals of trust or after abusive behavior
  • Feels a sense of guilt when being assertive
  • Difficulty making decisions or making up their minds
  • Struggles to say “no”
  • Has a fear of abandonment, constantly seeking verbal reassurance
  • Lack of trust (in themselves and others)
  • Struggle with setting and/or enforcing boundaries
  • Difficulty communicating within the relationship

A codependent person derives their sense of identity and worth through their relationship to others – even if it’s harmful to themselves. This desperation to hold on to a relationship paves the way for emotional, physical, or financial abuse by the hand of the more dominant partner.

How To Deal with Codependency

Codependency is a learned behavior that’s often attributed to dysfunctional family life. Fortunately, not all is lost and like addiction, behavioral therapy can go a long way in helping codependent individuals learn how to have positive and balanced relationships, to express their own feelings, and to recognize instances of abuse. Only then will codependents be able to serve as a source of social support for their partner (or other loved ones) struggling with addiction.

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A Guide to Drug & Alcohol Overdose

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The Benefits & Why choose a Holistic Drug Rehab over Traditional Rehabilitation