Common Health Problems  »  Mental Health Conditions


Codependency describes someone who becomes the “caretaker” of an addicted or troubled person. The person can be addicted to alcohol, drugs, or gambling. He or she can be troubled by a physical or mental illness. A codependent can be the person’s spouse, lover, child, parent, sibling, coworker, or friend.

Signs & Symptoms

A codependent does these things:

  1. Enables or allows the person to continue his or her destructive course and denies that the person has a problem.

  2. Rescues or makes excuses for the person’s behavior.

  3. Takes care of all household chores, money matters, etc.

  4. Rationalizes that the person’s behavior is normal by simply letting it take place. The codependent may take part in the same behavior as the addicted or troubled person.

  5. Acts like a hero or becomes the “super person” to maintain the family image.

  6. Blames the person and makes him or her the scapegoat for all problems.

  7. Withdraws from the family and acts like he or she doesn’t care.


A person is more likely to become codependent if he or she:

  1. Puts other people’s wants and needs before his or her own.

  2. Is afraid of being hurt and/or rejected by others. Is afraid of hurting others’ feelings.

  3. Has low self-esteem or has a self-esteem tied to what is done for others.

  4. Expects too much of himself or herself and others.

  5. Feels overly responsible for others’ behaviors and feelings.

  6. Does not think it is okay to ask for help.

Most codependents do not realize they have a problem. They think they are helping the troubled person, but they are not.

The first step in treatment is to admit to the problem. Self-care and counseling treat codependency. For many people, self-care is not easy to do without the help of a counselor.

Self-Care / Prevention

  1. Take medications as prescribed. Get your doctor’s advice before you take over-the-counter herbs, such as St. John’s Wort, especially if you take other medications.

  2. Don’t use illegal drugs. Limit alcohol. These can cause or worsen depression. Drugs and alcohol can also make medicines for depression work less. Harmful side effects can happen when alcohol and/or drugs are mixed with medicine.

  3. Eat healthy foods. Eat at regular times. Get regular exercise.

  4. Try not to isolate yourself. Be with people you trust and feel safe with, even though you feel down.

  5. Do something you enjoy.

  6. Keep an emergency number handy (e.g., crisis hotline, trusted friend’s number, etc.) in case you feel desperate.

  7. If you have thoughts of suicide, remove any weapons, pills, etc. that could be used for suicide and get medical help.

Have you been depressed most of the day, nearly every day and had any of these problems for at least 2 weeks?

  1. Feeling hopeless, worthless, guilty, slowed down, or restless.

  2. Changes in appetite or weight.

  3. Problems concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions.

  4. Feeling tired all the time. Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.

  5. Headaches or other aches and pains.

  6. Stomach problems.

  7. Sexual problems.

  8. Feeling worried or anxious.

  9. Thoughts of death or suicide.

Questions to Ask

Have you just attempted suicide or written a suicide note? Are you making plans for suicide? Do you have thoughts of suicide or death over and over?

Have you had a lot less interest or pleasure in almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks?

Has depression kept you from doing daily tasks for more than 2 weeks and caused you to withdraw from normal activities?

Has the depression occurred with any of the following?

  1. Recent delivery of a baby.

  2. A medical problem.

  3. Taking an over-the-counter or prescribed medicine. This includes antidepressants.

  4. Abusing alcohol or drugs.

  5. Dark, cloudy weather or winter months.

Do you feel depressed and do any of the following apply?

  1. You had depression in the past and it was not treated.

  2. You were treated for depression in the past and it has returned.

  3. You took medication for depression in the past.

  4. A close relative has a history of depression.