I don’t know that anyone typically uses the term ‘codependence’ when referring to one’s relationship with a person with mental illness, but after reflecting on the NPR article I posted about children with anxiety, I decided one may perhaps use this term in some cases.
Generally, the term ‘codependence’ is used in relation to one’s actions toward a person with a substance abuse disorder. One may enable, coddle, protect, one with a substance abuse disorder, making them, if not more ill, at least not getting better.
It can be similar in situations where one is dealing with a person with mental illness. Now, we have things like trigger warnings, I take it, simply because we do not know where a person may be in their journey of wellness. It’s a courtesy for those who may be triggered into unwellness by something.
However, most people I know who have things like PTSD or an anxiety disorder do try to work those things out through CBT tactics, among others.
Generally, when one has an anxiety disorder, on takes ‘baby steps’ toward wellness–trying to overcome fears, and facing things like worry or panic. Often, this is done in a controlled environment or somewhat controlled environment.
We never know where in one’s stage of wellness one may be, so we use things like trigger warnings.
However, when one has, say, a child who has anxiety, one may overly coddle them, and, well, be codependent. This does not allow the child to face her fears and get better. In fact, it may make things worse.
In a therapy session where CBT is used, one may learn alternative thought processes, breathing techniques, patterns of behavior and more. But when the child comes out of therapy into the arms of a codependent parent, all that work may be undone. That’s why it is good to have training and therapy for parents of children with mental health diagnoses. If nothing else, it keeps them on the same page of wellness.
It’s probably a delicate balancing act.
I could, of course, be mistaken on all of this. It is simply what I have thought of since reading the NPR article. Totally interested in what other think!