Is codependence a disease?

Some experts believe that it is not. According to them, this is a normal reaction to abnormal people. Others argue that codependence is a disease that is both chronic and progressive. According to this concept, codependents want and need sick people around them to feel happy in an unhealthy way. The alcoholic’s wife had to marry such a person and she chose him precisely because she unconsciously thought he was an alcoholic. What is more, she needs his drunkenness and his beatings to feel satisfied.

It is normal to try to protect and help the people we love. It is also normal to be influenced and to react in some way to the problems of others. The more serious the problem and the longer it remains unresolved, the more influential we are and the more violently we react.

Especially important here is the word „react“. Regardless of how you approach codependence, how you define it and from what methodological positions you try to diagnose and treat it, it remains primarily a reactive process. Codependents mostly react. Often their reaction is inappropriate – sharper or weaker than necessary. However, they rarely act. Codependents respond to the problems, pain, life and behaviour of others. They respond to their own problems, pain and behaviour. In many cases, their reactions are caused by the stress and insecurity of living or growing up in the midst of alcoholism and other problems. It is normal for a person to respond to the stress. It is not abnormal, but it requires a heroic effort and it is important for our very survival to learn not to react, but to act in a healthier way. However, most of us need help to do this.

A serious reason for codependence to be considered a disease is its progressive course. The worse the condition of the people around us, the more vigorously we react. What was initially mild anxiety can lead to isolation, depression, emotional or physical illness, and even suicidal thoughts. A chain reaction is triggered and things quickly get worse. Codependence may not be a disease, but it can make us sick as well as prevent people around us from recovering.

Another reason for codependence to be considered a disease is the fact that its characteristic pattern of behaviour – like most self-destructive patterns of action – becomes a habit. People repeat ordinary actions without thinking. In this way habits live their own lives.

No matter what problems the other person has, codependence unlocks a stereotypical system of thoughts, feelings and ways of acting towards ourselves and others that can cause us pain. The codependent behaviours and habits are self-destructive. We often react to people who are trying to ruin their lives by learning to ruin ourselves. These habits can cause you to start or maintain some devastating relationships that are doomed to failure from the beginning. The learned patterns of behaviour can cause relationships to fail although they would otherwise develop well. They can cause us to fail to live peacefully and happily with the most important person in our lives – with ourselves.

The codependent behaviour comes from the only person that each of us is able to control, the only person we are able to change – ourselves. Therefore, all this is our own problem.