Diagnosing and Treating Co-Dependence

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Diagnosing and Treating Co-Dependence by Timmen L. Cermak, M.D.

This was one of the required books for me to read in my ADS 108 course, Family Systems and Co-Dependency. I had originally signed up for the course to further help me to understand core issues in some of the participants I might come across in the AVP workshops I facilitate. In the process of learning about co-dependency, I came to question if there might have been some co-dependency issues in my own family.

Co-dependency can be loosely defined as a set of symptoms that a person might have in the form of personality traits. These traits are most likely found in the members of a family that has someone that has a chemical dependency problem. These family members feel responsible for the substance abuser's disease, and place irrational demands on their sense of self-worth if the chemical dependent continues to abuse drugs or alcohol.

What I identified for myself was the magical thinking in my family regarding my father's battle with leukemia, and later, my mother's struggle with depression. Although my parents did not abuse any substances, I still felt responsible for their illnesses in a way. Especially when my father's leukemia would get progressively worse, or my mother's depression became pronounced, I felt that I had failed them somehow and that through my own sheer willpower I could make them better. I am not sure what the clinical term for my exact thinking would have been at that time; I just know that many of the co-dependent symptoms were also manifested in my own thought processes. I placed my sense of self-worth in the well-being and health of both my parents, and when their conditions deteriorated, I would go into my own emotional roller coaster cycle. I am unsure if this would be called co-dependency in any way, what I do know is that the book has piqued my interest in searching and discovering more about my own emotional struggle back then and how it contributed to my own feelings of inadequacy in the world.

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