ADHD and Codependency
ADHD and Codependency
by Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D.Vancouver, WA-2004
As more adults are being diagnosed with ADHD, mental health professionals are learning that the major problems faced by these adults occurs in their interpersonal relationships. The primary reason that adults with ADHD have poor interpersonal relationships is that they have underdeveloped social skills, the major one being empathy. The way the spouse of the ADHD partner often copes with this lack of empathy is to become codependent.
Codependence is defined as a state of mind where you put your needs and dreams aside in order to help the other person have a life. Kindness is doing these kinds of things sometimes and having a balance of give and take in a relationship. In a codependent relationship, no matter how much you give, the other person does not return the favor. Yet you keep on giving, getting more fatigued, frustrated and resentful.
Codependence leads to micromanaging the ADHD members of the family. Because the ADHD members are doing everything they can to quell the busy brain in their heads and to manage the main duties of life, everything else gets dropped. The codependent person picks up what is dropped along with managing his or her own life.
- The codependent arranges all of the couple's social life.
- Or the codependent takes full responsibility for childcare and home management.
- Or the codependent covers for his wife's social faux pas.
- Or the codependent lays out her husband's clothes because he always mismatches things.
- Or the codependent pays for extra childcare or dry cleaning because his wife is so overloaded.
- Or the codependent works overtime or a second job because her husband does not earn enough money or keep a steady job.
- Or the codependent takes a job for health benefits because her husband chooses to be self-employed
- Or the codependent stays up late to type the teenager daughter's paper so she won't turn in homework late again.
The codependent eventually burns out. To get beyond codependency, you need to explore self-care. The codependent person needs to recognize that he/she counts just as much as the people they are protecting. Ask yourself, "Why are my rights as a person or my health less important than theirs?" Put your needs first and see to them first!
By breaking the cycle of codependence, you are giving back, to your spouse and to your children responsibility for their behavior. The first step toward your recovery and theirs, is accepting responsibility for your behavior and your life and letting them accept responsibility for theirs. After all, how can they develop responsibility if you do it all for them?
Since your ADD spouse or child loves you, but has no idea how you tick, make your beliefs and needs known in concrete ways. Educate yourself about the relationship issues of ADD so you can spot the symptoms of dysfunction early and correct the problems. There are excellent books that address codependency issues. See the list below for the ones I personally recommend.
You can also join a support group, like Codependents Anonymous, to replenish your energy. Unlearning codependent behavior is a difficult task to undertake on your own. You may want to consider psychotherapy with a therapist who specializes in ADHD. This will give you the tools you need to take care of your personal needs, while still being available as a support to your family.
Recommended Books on Co-Dependence
The following resources are those Dr. Kathy Marshack, Ph.D. personally recommends on the subject of breaking the unhealthy habit of co-dependence.
- Codependent No More : How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself
- "This is an inspiring, straightforward, personal explanation of what codependency is and who has it gives listeners the option to change unhealthy behaviors and stressful relationships, as they rediscover hope, guidance, and encouragement."--from Ingram
- Beyond Codependency : And Getting Better All the Time
- This sequel to Codependent No More speaks to an audience that has grown beyond the understanding of codependency and is striving to continue their journey.
- Women Who Love Too Much : When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He'll Change
- "Helps women who tend to be attracted to emotionally unavailable or abusive men to recognize and change the way they love through case histories and gentle advice"--from Ingram
- Choicemaking : For Co-Dependents, Adult Children and Spirituality Seekers
- Learn how to make healthy, appropriate choices when dealing with co-dependence, alcoholism, or similar obstacles.
- Co-Dependence : Misunderstood-Mistreated
- The author traces the history and development of the concept of co-dependence, and discusses its often confusing, overlapping definitions. Also discusses treatment options for addictive behaviors.
- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
- This book is one of the primary texts for recovery used by Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Under the Influence : A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism
- "Ten of millions Americans suffer from alcoholism, yet most people still wrongly believe that alcoholism is a psychological or moral problem, and that it can be cured by psychotherapy or sheer will power. Based on groundbreaking scientific research, Under The Influence examine the physical factors that set alcoholics and non-alcoholics apart, and suggests a bold, stigma-free way of understanding and treating the alcoholic."--from the publisher
- Another Chance : Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family
- "This book shares how alcoholism is a disease that penetrates the whole person and the whole family. Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse goes through the different roles that people act out in an alcoholic family and how each breaks down unity and supports the addictive behavior of the alcoholic. Then, she gives practical ways this system can begin to heal and recover such trauma to the soul."--from Amazon.com
- The Thinking Person's Guide to Sobriety
- "The author, once named one of the best lawyers in America, turns his attention from the law to write a thoroughly engaging, yet thought-provoking book on alcoholism. He is careful to point out that alcoholism is not just a disease of the down and out, but of the rich and famous and everyone in-between. Although his approach contains a good touch of humor, he remains fully cognizant of the seriousness of his subject. He mixes both facts on alcoholism and stories of alcoholics from different walks of life and at various stages of recovery."--from Booklist
- The Verbally Abusive Relationship
- "Are you now, or have you ever been, in relationships with family, friends, or mates who have been verbally abusive? Do you feel trapped in a relationship that keeps decaying in a downward spiral of overt or passive-aggressive abuse? If so, this book could be your life raft, either carrying you toward repair of the existing relationship or the effects of past relationships or offering liberation from your current confusion. Its practical approach can help clear your head and possibly change your life."--from Amazon.com
- The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships
- "Patrick Carnes presents an in-depth study of exploitive relationships: why they form, who is most susceptible, and how they become so powerful. He explains to readers how to recognize when traumatic bonding has occurred and provides a checklist so they can examine their own relationships. Included are steps readers can take to safely extricate themselves or their loved ones from these situations."--from Ingram
Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S. is a licensed psychologist with over thirty years of experience as a marriage & family therapist. Visit her website for more of her practical self-help advice on ADHD and other health issues. She can be contacted at (360)256-0448 or by email.