Families of Those with Mental Health Disorders
E. Fleener M.S.W.
I wanted to touch on codependency. It seems
like an old subject yet people are hurt by this
"condition" so often and so many of us have these
issues and are not aware.
Why do I bring this up in a mental health website? Most person with
a mental health disorder has a family member. If you are the family
member, check yourself out for these behaviors quickly and if
you can't relate then move on.
Just because those of us who have mental health disorders may not be
a family member of someone with a mental health disorder,
doesn't mean we don't have a problem with codependency and it
is very difficult to work on recovery when our focus is always
on someone else. In fact, downright impossible.
So many family members are focusing completely on the person
who has the mental health disorder that they are not in touch
with their own needs at all. This is not only unhealthy for
the family member but for the person with the disorder as
You must learn to get your life back and as the author Melodie
Beattie says "lovingly detaching." You are not on
this earth to take care of your partner or your daughter or
your cousin, etc. Let me repeat that. You are not on this
earth to take care of your partner or your daughter or your
That may be a part of your life and a very important part of
your life. But that is not the only reason you are on this
earth and that is not the only thing that defines you. You
must find out who you are and become that person once again.
You must be that person you were before you knew "that
person" and have that person in your life as well.
What is Codependency?
What does it feel like if you have been around someone
strongly codependent? I felt violated. My boundaries were
crossed. I felt extremely angry and upset. I felt manipulated
and power was taken away from me that belonged to me.
I had always heard that 50% of chemically dependent people are
codependent. My husband who attends AA says the joke there is
that it is 100%. So I do not know what the exact figures are.
Let's review some basic codependency behaviors.
What do Codependents try to do? Controls others or situations.
Do they really think they can control others? Yes.
Can anyone ever control others? No
Do they cross our boundaries? Yes
Do they mind their own business? No
Do they manipulate? Yes
Do they know what is best for you? Yes
What do they say when we get angry with them for crossing our
I was only trying to help.
What are some reasons they do this?
To avoid their own issues. To get their mind off of
What does Al-Anon and CoDa tell them to do?
Butt out! Mind their own business. Get the focus off of them
and back on their selves.
What do codependents do when they can't control you? Get
Characteristics of Codependency
1. My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by
2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving
approval from you
3. Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention
focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain
4. My mental attention is focused on you
5. My mental attention is focused on protecting you
6. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it
7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems
8. My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain
9. My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is
spent sharing your hobbies/interests
10. Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my
desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
11. Your behavior is dictated by my desires and I feel you are
a reflection of me
12. I am not aware of how you feel. I am aware of how you feel
13. I am not aware of what I want - I ask what you want. I am
not aware - I assume
14. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you
15. My fear of rejection determines what I say or do
16. My fear of your anger determines what I say or do
17. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship
18. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you
19. I put my values aside in order to connect with you
20. I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my
21. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of
Are you Codependent?
Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More developed this
Do you feel responsible for other
people--their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants,
needs, well-being and destiny?
Do you feel compelled to help people solve their problems or
by trying to take care of their feelings?
Do you find it easier to feel and express anger about
injustices done to others than about injustices done to you?
Do you feel safest and most comfortable when you are giving to
Do you feel insecure and guilty when someone gives to you?
Do you feel empty, bored and worthless if you don't have
someone else to take care of, a problem to solve, or a crisis
to deal with?
Are you often unable to stop talking, thinking and worrying
about other people and their problems?
Do you lose interest in your own life when you are in love?
Do you stay in relationships that don't work and tolerate
abuse in order to keep people loving you?
Do you leave bad relationships only to form new ones that
don't work, either?
Find a CODA meeting in your area at http://www.codependents.org:
Website Links for Codependents: http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/coda/
I recommend the book "Codependent
More" by Melodie Beattie. It is excellent. It has
been out for several years but it has not lost any of it's
Mental Health Matters for information
and articles. Get
help to find
a therapist or list
your practice; and Psych
Forums for message boards on a variety of MH topics.
Copyright © Patty Fleener, M.S.W. All