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Lifestyle: Addiction Symptoms and Traits + Relationship Addiction
Common Symptoms of Dependencies
Addictions present some common and some unique characteristics and behaviors across the board, depending
upon the behaviors and / or substances associated with the addiction. Let’s take a look at some common
symptoms or traits and a little about how to begin getting help for the more common addictions or dominating
Odors associated with the substances like cigarette or marijuana smoke are fairly noticeable traits. Here are
some maybe not so obvious:
- Uncontrolled cravings
- Wearing long sleeves (to cover needle marks) during hot weather
- Hanging out with known addicts
- Thoughts, actions – nearly everything- - focused on addiction
- Nasal congestion (sniffing, nose bleeds…), eye changes (redness, glassy, wears sunglasses when not needed, etc…)
- Behavioral changes (moodiness, mood swings with hyperactive, lethargy, violence, paranoia, secretive, confused
thoughts and actions)
- Denial of use, addiction, etc.
- Memory loss, distorted time
- Stealing or excessive / unusual borrowing of funds
- Unkempt appearance, truant / absenteeism from work, school, home…
- Sudden changes in school work and grades, job performance, regular behavior
- Withdrawal from normal activities, friends, family
- Withdrawal symptoms: nausea, sweating, chills, convulsions, anxiety, nervousness, depression,
headaches, hallucinations, diarrhea, restlessness / sleep disturbances, shaking (uncontrolled), sensitivity.
Now for a look at how to begin getting help for the more dominating dependencies today.
One major addiction facing many people is relationship addiction or
co-dependency. It is a learned dependent behavioral condition, generally with the existence of emotional,
physical and / or sexual abuse, that affects people with or related (not necessarily “blood related” but
environmentally or socially) to those having alcohol or drug, gambling, sex, food, work or other dependencies,
or the mentally ill. This unhealthy condition is learned from the abusers’ relationships and affects a
person’s ability to have a healthy relationship.
Co-dependent is associated with “dysfunctional family”
members or those feeling anger, shame, fear or pain mainly because of the addiction that is “unspoken” or
discussed. The person or persons addicted are in denial and don’t admit their dependencies or problems
surrounding them. And those in relationships with them adapt this type behavior as well, keeping the “status quo”
at an even keel to avoid confrontational issues and rock the boat.
Co-dependent people repress their emotions and ignore their own needs while being compulsive caretakers for
the addicts. And as a result they become “survivors.” To help keep addictions hidden, they distance themselves
from the addict as well as the problems associated with the addiction, and certain behaviors develop over time.
Co-Dependent Behaviors / Traits
Inhibited Emotions – Detachment occurs. Don’t touch, don’t feel, don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t confront. Keeping
the addiction hidden becomes then entire focus of the addict’s family and / or others in co-dependent relationships,
shifting all main focus of safety, health, and basically life to the sick person or addict. With the focus off
themselves, the co-dependent people neglect their own safety, health…in short, lives.
Self – Esteem – Low self-esteem is common among co-dependent people. To substitute something in the “real world”
that would make them feel better, since their fantasy of the hidden addiction becomes their real world, they
often become addicts themselves, diving into gambling, illicit sex, cigarette or marijuana smoking, work
(becoming workaholics), or drugs and alcohol as well.
Martyr – These caretakers take on a martyr role while trying to “help” the addict. But their exaggerated,
compulsive behaviors that they think actually “help” others, in reality negate their supposed “help.”
For example; a co-dependent person may think nothing of lying for his or her spouse or adult (or teen)
children to cover up for theft to fund a drug addiction. Since this behavior does indeed “help” the addict –
stay addicted, that is, the co-dependent person feels “needed” and a cycle of dependency develops around the
addict – additive behavior / substance – caretaker – caretakers compulsive actions / behaviors.
Victim - Co-dependent people feel caught up in the cycle of dependency and feel helpless to break free.
They see themselves as victims and are magnetically drawn to others in similar circumstances in their
Confused – Because of the nature of the disorder, co-dependent people often confuse love with pity and rescuing.
They hold on to unhealthy relationships at all costs to avoid feeling abandoned. They feel guilty when
trying to be in control, yet they feel driven to control people around them. They desperately seek approval
or to be recognized, in part because of their identity loss while trying to hide the addict and addiction
problems. And in part because they don’t trust themselves or others with all of the lying going on, and can’t
identify reality very well or trust their own feelings. (Outward shows of appreciation like rewards and
approval help ground them).
Unhealthy emotions – Intimacy and personal boundaries become problematic, as escaping reality unfortunately
comes with the need to find escape outlets. So dealing with intimate emotional issues like feeling loved can
mean reaching out to the wrong person. Anger and how to deal with it also becomes a problem and can be
misdirected – both internally, causing health problems like ulcers, and externally, like in violent behaviors,
because the person doesn’t know hope to cope or where to turn for help. And adjusting to change is burdensome,
with lack of effective communication skills and healthy decision-making tossed aside. So depression and
anxiety-related emotions surface and fester.
The key to getting help for co-dependency is acknowledging the problem. Then seek help. Check out library books
on co-dependency and to find helpful resources. Search the Yellow Pages (under recovery programs,
addiction recovery, etc.) and ask your healthcare provider or local hospitals and healthcare centers for
more information and places to start.
Also visit sites like the one for Co-Dependents Anonymous at www.coda.org (in Spanish and English) for
contacts in your state, Frequently Asked Questions, meetings, list groups, helpful literature and other
tools like the 12-Steps used as a base or foundation in many recovery programs.
For more websites, simply conduct a quick search of words or phrases associated with co-dependency.
They will yield many sites, chat rooms, list groups, ezines and other helpful resources to aid in recovery.
Also target groups and other resources associated with the addiction(s)directly. Each addiction pretty much
has its own network of healing and recovery resources. For instance, there is Gamblers Anonymous,
Alcoholics Anonymous, Nar-Anon (for narcotics), etc.
NEXT: Addictions: Drugs & Alcohol
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