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Alcohol Use Disorder and Codependency: Understanding the Connection

Alcohol Use Disorder and Codependency: Understanding the Connection

Codependency is an unhealthy relationship and has a strong association with alcohol use disorder and mental health conditions.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can cause severe physical and psychological health hazards, including cardiovascular complications, liver disease, increased tolerance, and physical and psychological dependence. Research reveals that AUD can produce several negative effects on personal and professional relationships. Codependency refers to an unhealthy emotional and behavioral attachment to another person who may be struggling with alcohol dependence. It is one of the negative outcomes of AUD and can affect a spouse, sibling, parent, or friend of a person with alcohol use disorder. Codependency not only harms the ones in the relationship but also has drastic effects on surrounding friends and family.

Confidant Health is an online platform that offers Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to help you overcome alcohol dependence, its related side effects, and codependency. MAT therapy involves administering drugs with behavioral therapies and counseling to reduce the cravings for alcohol and ensure a healthy recovery.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

Heavy alcohol consumption of more than four drinks in less than two hours, despite its negative consequences on psychological and physical health, is comprehended as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans” specifies binge drinking as more than five drinks for men and more than four drinks for women per day. Alcohol consumption takes millions of lives annually in the US, and around 14 million adults are found to be under the influence of alcohol dependence per annum. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol takes one life every 10 seconds. It clearly shows the severity of AUD and related issues.

Family background, social circle, and mental health condition are important factors in determining the risk for the development of AUD. If someone has a close relative struggling with alcohol misuse, one is more prone to follow in their footsteps.

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Below are the common symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD) that can help recognize AUD.

Behavioral changes

  • Assertive and irritable behavior that results in unintentional violence
  • Loss of self-control and concentration resulting in road traffic accidents
  • Perplexed thoughts
  • Low mood and drinking alcohol all the time, even while driving or at work
  • Augmented anxiety and seclusion from loved ones
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Drinking concentrated liquor

Health changes

  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Repeated infections
  • Impaired cognitive function, like forgetfulness, and difficulty performing simple chores
  • Tremors and visual, or auditory hallucinations
  • Uncoordinated physical movements

Alcohol dependence is also associated with drastic withdrawal effects that keep a person from seeking treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder. Healthy relationships are necessary for one to quit drinking alcohol. But, if someone is in a codependent partnership, this can often  worsen the alcohol misuse.

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What is codependency?

Codependency is defined as a mutually satisfying dysfunctional  relationship between two individuals where one is a giver, and the other is a taker. The giver keeps giving their best to maintain the relationship even if they must sacrifice their self-worth. The taker keeps taking advantage of the partner and indulges more in bad habits.

Although alcohol or drug dependence is not necessary for one to develop a co-dependent relationship, it is often  found in couples where one has a dependence on alcohol, drug, or any other cynical activity. People already struggling with a mental disorder like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Borderline personality disorder or people with a history of childhood trauma, bullying, or abusive parents, are at a higher risk for developing codependent partnerships.

How does codependency develop?

If a person loves someone with an alcohol use disorder, they will do everything for the loved one to keep their relationship stable. For example, one may provide company while drinking to show they are there for the loved one. Similarly, giving justifications for their loved one’s violent behaviors, sacrificing their own needs for them, and providing alcohol to avoid withdrawal symptoms are some behavioral patterns of codependency. 

As codependency is a learned behavior, it usually develops when one behaves positively if one’s desire has been fulfilled. There is a close association between alcohol consumption and codependency. When one lives with a person who has AUD, one may have learned behavior to act in a way acceptable to the individual with AUD.

Signs of Codependency

Codependency can interfere with the couple's behavior, making them prone to a dysfunctional relationship

The following are the main signs of codependency.

  • Giving undue favors.
  • Urge to control everything happening in a relationship.
  • Having trouble making decisions and communicating with the partner.
  • Lack of self-respect and confidence.
  • Unable to identify their own needs and sacrifice their needs for their partner’s priorities.
  • A constant fear of rejection and desertion from the partner.
  • Taking responsibility for their partner’s bad habits, alcohol misuse, and making excuses for them.
  • A false sense of being a savior for the other person, even if it requires hiding their alcohol dependence from others.
  • Covering up the adverse outcomes of their addictive behaviors, facilitating more alcohol misuse.
  • Overlooking anger and abusive treatment from the other.

Risks of Codependency

Codependency is detrimental because it allows an individual to drink more alcohol without being questioned. Eventually, the person falls quite deep into their alcohol dependence. Several risk factors are associated with codependency.

Alcohol Use Disorder and Codependency: Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis refers to the condition when a person suffers from codependency and alcohol use disorder side by side. However, either of the conditions may develop earlier than the other. Thus, 

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How to Overcome Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and Codependency:

Codependent associations and alcohol use disorder are unhealthy and suffering for an individual and their close ones. But once identified, they can be dealt with.

Ways to manage Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD):

Overcoming alcohol misuse is not an easy task. One needs determination and strong willpower to do so. Psychotherapy sessions and counseling can help to keep a person motivated. Support group therapies can help one with AUD to talk about withdrawal problems. Furthermore, certain medical treatment options are available to detoxify a person struggling with alcohol use disorder and help overcome the withdrawal effects of alcohol.

The best treatment always starts from home. If a person has healthy relationships and a supportive family, they can overcome alcohol misuse. But, if someone is in a codependent association, one needs to overcome unhealthy relationship behaviors  to have an addiction-free lifestyle.

Ways to overcome Codependency

Overcoming codependency means seeking a healthy partnership that has a sense of fulfillment and doesn't require one’s self-worth to be sacrificed. Here are different ways to overcome codependency

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

These therapy sessions with professional can mend your behavior, rebuild inner self-confidence, deals with anger issues and impulsiveness, and help heal past trauma.

Couples therapy

Sometimes, working with  each other head-on and talking out problems, and finding their solutions helps couples to maintain a healthy partnership by setting boundaries. Under supervision and professional advice, a couple can overcome a codependent relationship and start a healthy lifestyle.


Excessive alcohol intake makes a person want to sit alone with his bottle of liquor all the time, in isolation. Meeting up with friends and family helps to overcome this type of behavior and may eventually influence one to start living clean.

Spend quality time with one’s self

Spending quality time with one’s self, doing things you are passionate about, and keeping yourself busy also do wonders in overcoming an unhealthy, harmful codependent relationship.

Treating Alcohol use disorder and Codependency:

Alcohol dependence can be mild or severe, but it can be treated with a certain treatment plan. Codependency can only worsen alcohol misuse, leading to deleterious effects on health and relationships.

One might need to end the partnership eventually. But, if proper treatment can be approached at the right time, it can save relationships.

Here are some treatment options for Alcohol Use Disorder and Codependency.

The main focus of therapies and treatments is to help people struggling with alcohol misuse and dependence. To rediscover themselves and their self-worth.

Consult with Confidant Health’s Consultants

Confidant Health offers Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) that includes medications and counseling sessions to resolve issues related to codependency and alcohol dependence. You can download Confidant Health’s app to consult with a professional experienced in treating alcohol use disorder through alcohol rehab programs and MAT therapy.

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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