Codependency: When Giving Becomes Too Much — The Practical Side

The term “co-dependency” is synonymous with the term “enabler.” Codependency in the mental health field was coined from the mental health niche of substance abuse treatment. Friends, family members and loved ones of those who abused substances and stood by their side in unhealthy ways were labeled, “codependent.” Such codependent persons covered for a loved one’s mistakes, let them stay in their home while using or lent money even when they knew it was being used (at least in part) for drugs.

Such covering acts, though well intended, only push the hurting person farther away from ultimate healing. Codependency and enabling go hand-in-hand because one propels the other. When we cover for others, we push (or enable them) to keep performing the hurtful behavior—whatever that behavior may be. Another phenomenon that occurs when we enable others is that by inserting ourselves into their narrative and trying to make it better, the darker theme of whatever is actually unfolding in their lives may look less terrible, more normal or lighter. This is undoubtedly bad. Those that are falling have to find the bottom before they decide to climb out. And the sooner they hit that bottom the better.

I will speak more to codependency in the personal blog on this topic, but for now I want to say that I believe there is a thread of codependency that is pure and good. I believe that most people that engage in codependent behaviors are acting from a good place. A part of them wants to help, heal, stabilize and show up for their person. However, when this help is not well-given nor well-received, both parties suffer.

Codependency is certainly not only a substance abuse issue. Those dealing with co-dependent tendencies may cover for parents, children, bosses or friends. Healthy relationships do involve supporting others, but not in ways that foster unhealthy life patterns, poor character traits or addictions.

If you are struggling in any of your relationships right now, we can help. We offer individual, couples and family therapy and we would love to help you learn how to be in healthy relationships with all of the people around you. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.


Yolanda Brailey