Relationship addiction is becoming recognised more and more as a serious problem requiring careful co-dependency counselling. Co-dependency in general terms means two parties in a relationship based on a mutual dependency. Most relationships have a mutual level of healthy dependency. However, some relationships can become addictive, toxic and extremely unhealthy to the point where the relationship addiction begins to affect both parties negatively.

What is Co-Dependency?
Co-dependency or relationship addiction is when one or both people in a relationship become literally dependant on the other. Drugs, compulsive behaviour or other destructive habits from one person in a relationship can affect the other person to such a degree that they find themselves acting out on co-dependency.

Often when a person is involved in a close relationship, whether it is friendship, a romantic relationship, a family member or a spouse, if the other half of that relationship begins to self destruct in some way, that person becomes co-dependent. Some even believe it is the unavoidable consequence of a person's obsessive and compulsive behaviour – the people close to them become co-dependent.

For someone in the traps of co-dependency, life is far from free and simple. It is a binding prison of fear, obsession and compulsion. Void of the freedom of choice, the co-dependent finds themselves helpless and driven to look after and control the other person in the relationship. A search for affirmation and complete dependence on the other person for a reason to do anything leads them to insane and unstable behaviour.

Many relationships are mutually co-dependent. Both parties are addicted to the other half of the partnership and become almost like a single person. Co-dependants who have a relationship addiction will find themselves taking on the personality of the other person, sacrificing their own likes, tastes and wellbeing to keep their attachment safe from harm. Co-dependents manage to convince themselves that they are happy – that bowing to the other person's needs and likes makes them happy, but it is truly driven by an immense fear of rejection and terror of losing that person.

Treatment for Co-Dependency
Usually a person needing treatment for co-dependency or relationship addiction issues has other addictions such as drug addiction or eating disorders. Co-dependency is viewed as a disease of the same nature as drug addiction or alcoholism. It is an obsessive and compulsive disease, characterised by powerless behaviour and major consequences. There is no cure, however a programme of recovery can help the co-dependent arrest their condition and begin to piece a life together that is self-loving and caring.

Treatment for co-dependency will usually happen when a person seeks help for another addiction and their co-dependency becomes a major problem. Typically, when a person has the disease of addiction, if one destructive behaviour is ceased, another will manifest, and this can often be co-dependency. However, there are those who seek help from co-dependency alone as this is the only addictive behaviour with which they struggle.

Upon starting recovery for a co-dependency addiction, a person will need to separate completely from the person on whom they are dependent. Even though the person who is the object of a co-dependants control is what they are addicted to, the problem lies within the co-dependent. Establishing abstinence of the person is not the cure by any means and it is abnormal for a person in a relationship to cut the other half off and never see them again.

What Needs to Change
The behaviour is the addiction and once the person is able to abstain from the addictive behaviour, the deeper issues can be explored in therapy and co-dependency counselling.

In a treatment centre, a co-dependent will usually receive counselling on a one to one basis and also group therapy. A good programme of daily recovery is a twelve step programme, where the co-dependent can attend daily meetings, work with a sponsor who is more experienced in recovery, work the steps and trust in a higher power.

Self-love is extremely important for a co-dependent to establish in becoming healthy and able to have nontoxic relationships again. A healthy lifestyle with healthy eating and exercise is vital in the process of a co-dependent becoming a self-respecting and independent person as it is an important aspect of growing a person's self esteem.

Co-dependency can allow a person to give up their life for another in the sense that they lose all inclination of who they are and what they are doing with their life. The end result leaves the co-dependent as a shell without control over their emotions or actions and is a heartbreaking sight to see. Yet with treatment, therapy, a healthy lifestyle and a daily programme of recovery, their spirit can be healed and the addiction arrested so they may go on to have healthy and productive relationships.

Author's Bio: 

Oasis Counselling Centre is a rehabilitation facility in Plettenberg Bay who specialise in the treatment of addictions including co-dependency and people addiction through counselling and therapy, a healthy lifestyle and a twelve step programme.