The Stages of Co-Dependency

Co-dependency often happens when a person tries to focus on other people so they can ease their own pain and inner emptiness. What they don’t realize here is that when they ignore themselves, their pain simply grows. This is a circular habit that self-perpetuates and takes on its own life. As this happens, a person’s thinking becomes obsessive, their behavior becomes obsessive, and the consequences are dire. For this reason, co-dependency is seen as a co-occurring addiction for many drug addicts. As such, it’s important to understand the stages of co-dependency.

Naming the Stages of Co-Dependency

The stages of co-dependency grow worse throughout time when an intervention and treatment don’t occur. Most psychologists believe it starts with a dysfunctional family in childhood. However, most do not receive an official diagnosis until adulthood because most children are dependent anyway. Once diagnosed, there are three identifiable stages, each of which is more progressive than the last. These include:

  • The early stage starts off like a “normal” relationship, but a person slowly becomes obsessed with their partner while denying that this is even happening. Healthy boundaries and other friendships get abandoned.
  • The middle stage is when you start compromising more of yourself to maintain the relationship. Negative feelings grow as we try to change our partner while hiding our problems and withdrawing from other people. This is a definite downward spiral and when drugs are in the mix, it happens even faster than it would otherwise. Unfortunately, drugs are one of the many addictive behaviors people turn to here though.
  • The last stage is when your health goes downhill significantly. Stress-related disorders, obsessive-compulsive behavior, a lack of self-esteem and self-care, as well as other addictions continually increase. This makes you feel hopeless, angry, and depressed.

Recovery will reverse all these symptoms. As this happens, you’ll regain hope, become happy, and improve your self-esteem. All of this occurs as you get in touch with yourself again, which in and of itself is a great thing.

Understanding the Stages of Co-Dependency

Experts agree that addiction is a disease that’s similar to other medical conditions. It’s similar to co-dependency. It is a progressive brain disease characterized by craving, denial, a dysfunctional emotional response, and the inability to consistently control your behavior. The stages of co-dependency don’t automatically disappear when a person leaves a codependent relationship either. “Perfect” abstinence doesn’t exist even after years of treatment because when under a lot of stress the behavior may still return.