You may wonder how people get into therapy for codependency. Rarely do I have a person come into my therapy office requesting help for codependency. More often people come in for other issues, and we discover the codependency as I am getting to know them. I will describe some of the presenting problems that sometimes can be a red flag for codependency. Then, in subsequent articles, I will describe how we work together in therapy to make things better.
Often people come in to therapy with relationship problems. They may be having trouble resolving conflict. One partner may be angry, because they feel that they are doing everything that needs to be done, while the other partner does nothing. There may be a problem with jealousy or trust that may or may not be warranted. Maybe one partner has been abandoned and is devastated and unable to move on after a long period of time. Someone may come in alone and wonder why they keep ending up in abusive relationships. Or why they keep going back to the same abusive partner. All of these problems don’t always involve co-dependency, but they often do.
Another common presenting problem may involve children and parenting. I often have parents call with normal childhood development issues and they are at a loss about how to manage it. (Not that parenting isn’t hard). For example, I often get calls something like this. “I have a teenage daughter and I don’t know what on earth to do with her. She is angry at me almost all the time, and all she cares about are boys and how she looks.” When people grow up in a dysfunctional home, they are unable to act like normal children. In our culture, normal adolescents are often grumpy and rebellious, especially with their parents or somebody they feel safe with. (Of course, just because it is normal does not mean that it is not difficult. Most of us can use help with parenting at some time. It is a difficult job).
Sometimes people come in with very poor self-esteem. If you saw them, you would never guess it. They are often attractive, accomplished and very bright. Yet, even though it does not make any sense, they feel horrible about themselves. They set impossible goals for themselves and feel inadequate when they do not reach them.
Some people may come in with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. They hate being involved with conflict and will do almost anything to avoid it. They get very anxious around angry people and may be frightened. They may be starting to remember some of what happened in the past and feel overwhelmed by the pain.
Others come in with presenting issues around anxiety or depression. These may occur after a loss of some kind. Often losing a parent or having a terminally ill parent may bring back a lot of bad memories that people can no longer suppress.
The last issue that I often see that often involves co-dependency involves problems with co-workers or a supervisor or both. Since co-dependents often believe that everything is their responsibility, they sometimes do way more than their share of the work. They keep trying to work faster and faster and do more and more. Then, they are so exhausted that they often have trouble managing their everyday life. They feel chronically overwhelmed. Or they may get so angry that others are not doing their share that they blow up at work.
Certainly there are other issues that bring people in, but these are some that I see often. I will describe in future articles how we address them.
© Copyright 2011 by Joyce Henley, MSW, LCSW, CEAP, SAP. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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