Tag Archives: recovery

I Am Human. I Need Help.

It was close to midnight when I drove into an empty mall parking lot. The sound and sight of rain is distinct in my memory. “Where are you, God?” I shouted, pain coiling itself around my heart, torment gripping my mind. “Where are you?” I sobbed again. I parked my car and began to write the truth in my journal: I am absolutely terrified. My life is completely out of control. God, I need help.

Fourteen years ago I was struggling with an eating disorder (among other things, hello). But in that parking lot, I finally pressed beyond denial and admitted to myself and to God that I had a problem I couldn’t fix. I wasn’t ready to admit the same to others, but at least the pressure of pretending began to lift.

It took a few years for me to open my pain to close friends, and for my life to actually change, but I gained a level of freedom that night as I gave myself permission to say it, to write it: I am human. I am broken. I need help.

Brokenness opens a path for obedience. Not because it’s more spiritual to be jacked up across fourteen areas of life, but because of the humility it takes to engage in an honest relationship between the Holy Spirit and us. It takes guts to say, “I don’t have it all together and I’m not going to wait until I have it all together. Jesus, I need you now. Where are you? Can you please come to me now?”

He has all wisdom. He has all power. He is at peace with our humanity, with our brokenness. He comes to us in our pain, not in our pretense. He gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud. And the Holy Trinity is the only force able to transform our lives completely, for good.

How I hated those first few times I risked taking off my mask. How I loathed giving up control of my environment and of how others saw me. How I despised living in that grey space between who I was and who I wanted to be. Denial was so much easier – at least my coping mechanisms were familiar, and pretending I had it all together was so much better than sitting in the ugly truth.

But truth-telling started the process of freedom. I began walking wholeheartedly towards integrity. And this opened my heart to receive the truth of the word of God as well. This opened me up to a life in the Spirit.

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” And when we make the simple, albeit difficult, decision to be honest with where we are, we can obey Jesus at each step of our discipleship journey, on our way to where we’re going. We tap into the power of the Holy Spirit and, by His grace, we can respond to our past with His love, remain present where we are, and look to the future with hope.

Humility in obedience is hard; but, oh, my friend, you’re worth it. Eugene Peterson, in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction:

“I Am Human. I Need Help.”

It was close to midnight when I drove into an empty mall parking lot. The sound and sight of rain is distinct in my memory. “Where are you, God?” I shouted, pain coiling itself around my heart, torment gripping my mind. “Where are you?” I sobbed again. I parked my car and began to write the truth in my journal: I am absolutely terrified. My life is completely out of control. God, I need help.

Fourteen years ago I was struggling with an eating disorder (among other things, hello). But in that parking lot, I finally pressed beyond denial and admitted to myself and to God that I had a problem I couldn’t fix. I wasn’t ready to admit the same to others, but at least the pressure of pretending began to lift.

It took a few years for me to open my pain to close friends, and for my life to actually change, but I gained a level of freedom that night as I gave myself permission to say it, to write it: I am human. I am broken. I need help.

Brokenness opens a path for obedience. Not because it’s more spiritual to be jacked up across fourteen areas of life, but because of the humility it takes to engage in an honest relationship between the Holy Spirit and us. It takes guts to say, “I don’t have it all together and I’m not going to wait until I have it all together. Jesus, I need you now. Where are you? Can you please come to me now?”

He has all wisdom. He has all power. He is at peace with our humanity, with our brokenness. He comes to us in our pain, not in our pretense. He gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud. And the Holy Trinity is the only force able to transform our lives completely, for good.

How I hated those first few times I risked taking off my mask. How I loathed giving up control of my environment and of how others saw me. How I despised living in that grey space between who I was and who I wanted to be. Denial was so much easier – at least my coping mechanisms were familiar, and pretending I had it all together was so much better than sitting in the ugly truth.

But truth-telling started the process of freedom. I began walking wholeheartedly towards integrity. And this opened my heart to receive the truth of the word of God as well. This opened me up to a life in the Spirit.

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” And when we make the simple, albeit difficult, decision to be honest with where we are, we can obey Jesus at each step of our discipleship journey, on our way to where we’re going. We tap into the power of the Holy Spirit and, by His grace, we can respond to our past with His love, remain present where we are, and look to the future with hope.

Humility in obedience is hard; but, oh, my friend, you’re worth it. Eugene Peterson, in his book, A Long Obedience in the

Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, said, “And yet I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily–open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.” Yes and Amen.

PRACTICE: What thoughts come into your mind as you think about leaning into the grey space of where you are now and where you want to be? Are you uncomfortable, afraid, lonely, angry? Share your thoughts with the Lord. He wants to hear you. Discipleship in an Instant Society, said, “And yet I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily–open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.” Yes and Amen.

PRACTICE: What thoughts come into your mind as you think about leaning into the grey space of where you are now and where you want to be? Are you uncomfortable, afraid, lonely, angry? Share your thoughts with the Lord. He wants to hear you.

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7 Strategies to Outsmart the Sun: Staying Clear of Summer Mania

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The changing seasons effect my moods in a noticeable pattern. Very often winter or even fall bring on depression which last though the spring. I slowly climb out of depression only to land in a hypomanic state, which often begins in the springs and worsens in the summer.

Once again, spring brought on a hypomanic episode that worsened in the summer. Stress, changing schedules, change in sunlight and activities all bring on these mood swings. I just read this blog about fighting summer mania. Here’s to a balanced life. Now I’m going to sleep because I know sleep and a consistent schedule are an important part of my self care. ☀️ 🏖🧜🏻‍♀️💦💛

While you can’t change the seasonal shift to longer days, you can make subtle lifestyle changes, such as regulating sleep, to sidestep summer mania.

Photo: Merlas/Getty Images

By Brittany Sibley

The days are longer and the sun is shining the brightest in a while. For a person diagnosed with Bipolar I in 2006, the mere transition to long, luminous days and shorter nights causes more anxiety and nervousness than usual.

The change of seasons has caused me plenty of manic episodes in the past. I have since learned seven solid solutions and tips to help combat the symptoms of seasonal changes. These tips help in staying clear of an inpatient hospital visit during what most consider the best months of the year. I hope they are as effective for you as they have been for me.

1. Sleep

It has been essential for me to always get enough rest. However, with Daylight Saving Time and longer, shinier days, an additional burst in energy is never too far away. Although it almost always feels wonderful, and causes you to want to get more done, stay out longer, possibly accomplish a few more things in 24 hours…DON’T!

While the feeling of more energy is real and feels great, falling away from your regular sleep regimen is never a good idea, especially when the season of mania approaches. In fact, one should definitely keep the regular sleeping hours and if anything changes, let the hours increase, and not the opposite.

2. Eat Healthy

Eating healthy and making healthy eating decisions regularly is something I still struggle with. Yet I have experienced the benefits of eating salad instead of a deep dish pizza several times. You are what you eat! Eating more veggies, fruit, and lean meats instead of processed foods regularly, and especially during manic season, makes a difference. You will feel a difference in your skin, your mood, and even your waistline.

3. Take Deep Breaths

Taking deep breaths when stressed, tired, upset, angry, unfocused or even irritated helps. Try deeply inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth in sets of 3. This is also a good tool because it requires nothing but reminding yourself to do so in times of sudden distress.

4. Pray/Meditate

Take time out of your day, (first thing in the morning works best for me), and remind yourself of who you are besides your diagnoses.

Remember that you are loved and worthy of all the great things that day has in store for you.

 

Since I am a Christian, it helps me to remind myself that I am never alone because the Holy Spirit, who my Savior promised to send when he left, is with me no matter how lonely I may feel.

5. Take Breaks

The sudden burst of energy one may experience from the sunnier days and more exposure to the sun in general can trigger the want to complete more tasks—and this can be alright, as long as you remember to take breaks.

It helps to remember that this new energy feels good, but is coming from an unbalanced source.

 

Doing too much in 24 hours with little time to break or rest can cause the onset of a manic episode.

6. Watch Alcohol Intake

5 years ago in 2013, I had an inpatient hospital visit that can be directly attributed to the large intake of hard alcohol consumed two nights before. I simply drank way too much that night.

With spring and summer come more festivals, barbecues, beaches, and let’s admit it—booze.

Monitoring alcohol intake during these seasons is a must! If you still are not sure when you have had enough, take it slow. Yes it can be a bit lame being the responsible one at the party, but I promise, your freedom will thank you later.

7. Cover Bedroom Windows Heavily

The day before Daylight Saving Time, try covering your bedroom window with a dark-colored blanket. The blanket will work as a shield to the bright rays of sun in the morning.

Although longer, sunnier days are always welcome, adjusting to the initial change while having a mental health condition can be traumatic.

The dark blanket helps ensure your sleeping pattern is not interrupted so blatantly. It also allows your body to tell you when it has had enough sleep.

I hope these seven tips are as helpful for you as they have been for me over the past several springs and summers.

Let’s do our best to have a safe, healthy and stable summer while enjoying the sunnier days and moonlit nights. Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health. Until next time…Happy Summer!

Learn more:

Ask The Doctor: Summer Mania

Watch Out for Summer Mania

4 Go-To Tips to Take on (Unbearable!) Social Anxiety

Getting busy striking up a simple conversation or just helping an event organizer can allow you to ease discomfort in situations with A LOT of people

Photo: GeorgePeters/Getty Images

By Brittany Sibley

Over the years I have realized a few things related to my journey with Bipolar I. The fact that I can experience hard core anxiety is one of them.

In busy, active situations, my brain can sometimes label this as too overwhelming. These types of situations, for example, include riding a crowded bus, eating lunch in the employee lounge, holiday parties, birthday dinners, outside festivals/concerts, ordering food in a busy restaurant, and waiting in long lines at a local grocery store, supermarket or any other place a lot of folks—familiar or unfamiliar—may be located at one point of time.

At times, my “bipolar 1 mind” cannot conceive baring situations with lots of people because it feels a little too much for my five senses. I have learned a few tips to try and ignore the sense of unbearable discomfort to help you get through your day, run your errand, stay put at the party, and enjoy your family’s get-together, concert, festival or any other situation where your brain would like you to detach, resist, isolate or literally walk away.

I have experienced when walking away is necessary to maintain your calmness, and if you find yourself in this situation, please do what’s necessary to ensure stability. However, if you think you can stay put, staying active personally is a great way to get over that hump. These are often my go-to tools for keeping myself active in busy situations.

1. Try to make convenient, comfortable conversation with at least one person.

It does not matter who the one person is, and you don’t need many details to start the conversation. Just mention something you both have in common in that moment of time. I hate to be cliche, but it really could be the weather, how his or her day has been thus far, how and why the place you both are presently in is so crowded or decorated (depending).

Usually as the conversation progresses, your mind eventually fades from unbearable to sort of bearable to not so bad after all.

2. Always have something to read!

If not, pick up something to read. A magazine, a book, a schedule, a brochure, an itinerary—it does not really matter what it is.

In my experience, by reading, you are taking your mind off the sudden discomfort your body experiences in busy, or suddenly busy situations. Your mind begins to instead focus your energy on reading and learning, possibly information you did not know before.

If you continue to read long enough, the urge to walk away from the situation will settle. When in long lines, I usually read long enough until it is my turn to check out.

3. Offer/ask host of event or gathering if there is anything you can do to help.

I have found making myself available to the host keeps me very active at busy events. From helping with displays and food layouts, to assisting with clean up by gathering dishes, and finally helping any elderly with second plates, take home bags, and drink refills, these tasks can take your mind off of your anxiety.

4. Keep your head up and remind yourself that the reason you feel anxiety is because you actually got up and went to the situation, event or invite in the first place.

While some places can be required and unavoidable, choosing to remain active in them in any effort deserves a little recognition. Recognizing any small feat allows the next accomplishments to become easier and easier.

These few tools can help in trying to remain active in anxiety-inducing situations the same way they continue to help me. I speak from my personal experience, and you or your loved ones may have experiences quite different than what I know to be true.

Either way, trying the tools will not hurt, especially during this summer season where things to do abound! I would love to hear if these tips work for you and if not, what other tools you may know of to better assist in similar situations. Happy July and continue to take care of your mind as well as you do your body…until next time, Happy Summer!

Learn more:

7 Strategies to Outsmart the Sun: Staying Clear of Summer Mania

Stress or Bipolar Anxiety? How to Tell the Difference

You Say

Lauren Daigle – You Say Lyrics

From the album Look Up Child

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up

Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low

Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know

You say I am loved

When I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong

When I think I am weak

You say I am held

When I am falling short

When I don’t belong

You say I am Yours

And I believe

I believe

What You say of me

I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me

In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet

You have every failure, God, and You’ll have every victory

Oh, I believe

Yes, I believe

What You say of me

Oh, I believe

Publishing: © 2018 See You At The Pub & CentricSongs (SESAC) / So Essential Tunes & Fellow Ships Music (SESAC) / Flychild Publishing & So Essential Tunes (SESAC)

Words and Music by Lauren Daigle, Jason Ingram and Paul Mabury

The Lord Lifts Me Up Every Day


He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly.
Psalms 146:6‭-‬8 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/psa.146.6-8.NLT

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder affects approximately two percent of adults. It can manifest as mood instability, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, and high rates of self-injury and suicidal behavior.

Definition

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and an individual’s sense of identity.

People with BPD, originally thought to be at the “border” of psychosis and neurosis, suffer from difficulties with emotion regulation. While less well known than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, BPD affects two percent of adults. People with BPD exhibit high rates of self-injurious behavior, such as cutting and, in severe cases, significant rates of suicide attempts and completed suicide. Impairment from BPD and suicide risk are greatest in the young-adult years and tend to decrease with age. BPD is more common in females than in males, with 75 percent of cases diagnosed among women.

People with borderline personality disorder often need extensive mental health services and account for 20 percent of psychiatric hospitalizations. Yet, with help, many improve over time and are eventually able to lead productive lives.

Symptoms

A person with borderline personality disorder may experience intense bouts of anger, depression, or anxiety that may last only hours or, at most, a few days. These may be associated with episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury, and drug or alcohol abuse. Distortions in thoughts and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, identity, and values.

Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad or unworthy. They may feel bored, empty, or unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, and they have little idea who they are. Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated or lacking in social support, and they may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone.

People with BPD often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. While they can develop intense but stormy attachments, their attitudes toward family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike). Thus, they may form an immediate attachment and idealize another person, but when a slight separation or conflict occurs, switch unexpectedly to the other extreme and angrily accuse the other person of not caring for them at all.

Most people can tolerate the ambivalence of experiencing two contradictory states at one time. People with BPD, however, must shift back and forth between good and bad states. If they are in a bad state, for example, they have no awareness of the good state.

Individuals with BPD are highly sensitive to rejection, reacting with anger and distress to mild separations. Even a vacation, a business trip, or a sudden change in plans can spur negative thoughts. These fears of abandonment seem to be related to difficulties feeling emotionally connected to important persons when they are physically absent, leaving the individual with BPD feeling lost and perhaps worthless. Suicide threats and attempts may occur along with anger at perceived abandonment and disappointments.

People with BPD exhibit other impulsive behaviors, such as excessive spending, binge eating, and risky sex. BPD often occurs with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and other personality disorders.

Causes

Although the cause of borderline personality disorder is unknown, both environmental and genetic factors are thought to play a role in predisposing people to BPD symptoms and traits. BPD is approximately five times more common among people with close biological relatives with BPD.

Studies show that many individuals with BPD report a history of abuse, neglect, or separation as young children. Forty to 71 percent of BPD patients report having been sexually abused, usually by a noncaregiver.

Researchers believe that BPD results from a combination of individual vulnerability to environmental stress, neglect, or abuse as young children and a series of events that trigger the onset of the disorder as young adults. Adults with BPD are also considerably more likely to be the victims of violence, including rape and other crimes. These incidents may result from harmful environments as well as the victims’ impulsivity and poor judgment in choosing partners and lifestyles.

Neuroscience is revealing brain mechanisms underlying the impulsivity, mood instability, aggression, anger, and negative emotion seen in BPD. Studies suggest that people predisposed to impulsive aggression have impaired regulation of the neural circuits that modulate emotion. The brain’s amygdala, a small almond-shaped structure, is an important component of the circuit that regulates negative emotion. In response to signals from other brain centers indicating a perceived threat, it marshals fear and arousal, which may be more pronounced under the influence of stress or drugs like alcohol. Areas in the front of the brain (prefrontal area) act to dampen the activity of this circuit. Recent brain-imaging studies show that individual differences in the ability to activate regions of the prefrontal cerebral cortex thought to be involved in inhibitory activity predict the ability to suppress negative emotion.

Serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine are among the chemical messengers in these circuits that play a role in the regulation of emotions, including sadness, anger, anxiety, and irritability. Drugs that enhance brain serotonin function may improve emotional symptoms in BPD. Likewise, mood-stabilizing drugs that are known to enhance the activity of GABA, the brain’s major inhibitory neurotransmitter, may help people who experience BPD-like mood swings. Such brain-based vulnerabilities can be managed with help from behavioral interventions and medications, much as people manage susceptibility to diabetes or high blood pressure.

Treatments

The recommended treatment for borderline personality disorder includes psychotherapy, medications, and group, peer, and family support. Group and individual psychotherapy have been shown to be effective forms of treatment for many patients. Psychotherapy is the first line treatment for BPD, and several forms of therapy, such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), mentalization based therapy (MBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and psychodynamic psychotherapy, have been studied and proven to be effective ways to alleviate symptoms.

Pharmacological treatments are often prescribed based on specific target symptoms shown by the individual patient. Antidepressant drugs and mood stabilizers may be helpful for depressed and/or labile mood. Antipsychotic drugs may also be used when there are distortions in thinking.

References

• National Institute of Mental Health

• American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Revised.

• American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition

• US Department of Health and Human Services

• National Alliance on Mental Illness

Last reviewed 03/06/2018

19 Signs You Grew Up With Borderline Personality Disorder

Sarah Schuster

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a highly stigmatized and misunderstood mental illness that affects about 14 million Americans, or 5.9 percent of adults in the U.S. But because the symptoms usually first occur while a person is a teenager or in their early 20s, it’s too easy to dismiss those early signs as “bad behavior” or “teenage angst,” when in actuality the person is really struggling.

To find out some ways people knew (in hindsight) they had borderline personality disorder, we asked people who live with it in our community to share what it was like to grow up with undiagnosed, or maybe not-yet-developed, borderline personality disorder.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Ever since I can remember, even as far back as first grade, I have always been extremely sensitive to everything. I remember I would always feel different and really alone… Looking back, it really set in around age 14. That’s when the anger started coming out, the abuse of drugs and alcohol, the impulsivity, very rocky relationships — basically all the symptoms of BPD. I’m 20 years old now and I have gotten some aspects under control, but it’s still a battle I fight every day.” — Julia F.

2. “The impulsiveness, reckless behavior and trouble maintaining healthy relationships. The black-and-white thinking, self-harming behaviors… pushing and pulling people in and out of my life.” — Melissa R.

3. “I always thought I just felt everything a lot more than other people. I would get super excited about things other kids didn’t seem to care about. I can remember jumping up and down because my team scored a point and looking around wondering why no one else was as excited as me. I was told over and over to calm down, be quiet and even when I expressed outrage over an injustice, I was told there is nothing I can do.” — Melanie M.

4. “A friend of mine, who I thought was my BFF, wanted to sit next to another girl in class next. When she told me that, I threw myself on the ground and cried my heart out as I thought she hated me. In that moment I hated her with my very soul. I was crying for days because of that.” — Lenka W.

RESOURCES FROM

PERSONALITY DISORDER AWARENESS NETWORK

Learn more about personality disorders?

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Take a look at these helpful websites and organizations

5. “It was like no matter how good things were, I could always find a negative in everything… [it was like the] wall that was up was always getter higher could never reach it.” — Stephen J.

6. “Extreme sensitivity. I would idealize people, then push them away. I had the biggest fear of abandonment. Anger would consume me, and I felt I could not get rid of it unless I self-harmed. Then, I would feel horribly guilty and ashamed about it. I remember scratching at my face and hair as early as 4, I think.” — Amy W.

7. “Going from being best friends with someone to hating their guts, and then going back to being best friends after a while… My self-harm as a teenager… having only two to three close friends growing up. I found it very hard to make and keep friends. I was very emotionally sensitive and would get hurt easily. All these things I can see now as signs of my BPD.” — Michelle M.

8. “I was only diagnosed a year ago, but looking back it all makes sense. As far back as I can remember, I was extremely sensitive, had highly fluctuating moods including intense anger and I would self-harm. I would freak out over any sudden changes in plans, and I was terrified of abandonment. It wasn’t until years later I realized it was something much more than just depression and anxiety.” — Kelsey M.

9. “Making impulsive, life-changing decisions without thinking through the consequences, moving from city to city and job to job thinking my problems would go away if I moved to another city. I now have a very unstable work history and am finding it very difficult to find employment.” — Pam M.

10. “Dissociation. Feeling like you’re out of your body — like it’s not even yours, is the most terrifying feelings ever, and was the main symptom/sign that I had something different from depression. Nobody ever really talks about dissociation, and I have no idea why, it horrified me more than anxiety attacks ever did. It’s like this huge seemingly endless brain fog. You can’t think, you can’t talk, you just can’t function. You feel completely numb from the inside and out. To me it gets so bad it feels like I don’t ‘exist,’ and it’s terrifying. Especially when you think you’re the only one who felt this way (which was the case for me for months).” — Alexis W.

11. “I felt like I’d always be alone, like I was not worthy of having friends. I’m in a better place now and have been in treatment for five months.” — Isobel T.

12. “Being extremely sensitive, wanting to be everybody’s best friend, being insanely hard on myself, thinking everyone was talking about me behind my back, loving people way too much, being co-dependent, thinking in absolutes, being very black and white, constant fear of abandonment.” — Marissa L.

13. “My whole life I have been extremely sensitive. If an adult so much as raised their voice a little, I would burst into tears. I also once I hit puberty could never seem to have a steady relationship with peers. My friendships were always very up and down and one-sided especially as I became a teenager. I never had a self-esteem and I started cutting when I was 13. I was misdiagnosed with depression and anxiety first. I always wondered why I was so different, why weren’t other kids like me? Now it makes perfect sense.” — Jessie B.

14. “Black/white thinking. Am I a good/bad person? I love/hate you. Don’t ever leave me/I want be on my own. With everyone of these issues it is extreme and intense, there is no middle ground, no balance or stability.” — Roma S.

15. “It was a constant up and down. I didn’t have steady friendships. I felt insecure and had a low self-esteem. Oftentimes social interactions induced intense emotions that completely overwhelmed me and made me feel isolated and invisible. I felt anchor-less and didn’t know where I belonged or if I would ever find someone who would love and understand me. I was so afraid of my friends leaving me that I tried everything to make them love me. I started self-harming at 14, desperately trying to keep me grounded and gaining recognition.” — Mona B.

16. “As far back as I can remember as a little kid I’d deliberately push people away to test their limits and kind of prove to myself that I wasn’t a lovable person. As a teenager it mainly showed in my complete inability to handle breakups and extreme impulsivity, self-harm, constant suicidal thoughts, etc. This was all shrugged off by everyone around me as ‘being a teenager’ and ‘attention seeking.’ As a result I struggled for years without treatment. I’m still in shock that I survived that to be honest.” — Lucy R.

17. “I have had a serious problem with overspending money and self-harm. I would get so emotional at things that were not even real (fictional things or playful things) and the constant changes of my moods were hard for me to handle. Now I have been diagnosed with BPD and as I look back I see that I’ve had this for quite some time. It feels good to have a name for it now.” — Mackenzi D.

18. “I felt alone, unwanted and so different.” — Seth B.

19. “Definitely getting overemotional at almost everything. Sensitivity to violence, I couldn’t even handle violent TV shows like CSI. Even reading books would put immediately in a mood related to the book — it would make me happy or sad depending on how it ended. I was and still am more sensitive in my interactions with people. I would get easily upset even if they didn’t mean to upset me. I thought for years that something was wrong with who I am. That everything about me was wrong and it was all my fault. Even at age 9 I was self-harming. I hated myself and had no self-confidence. I was dual diagnosed with borderline and bipolar at age 19, and everything finally made sense. All the things I thought were wrong with myself actually had a name. Not that that made it any easier to accept. I’m now 24, and I’m finally starting to accept this is just how I was made. And it’s not my fault.” — Meghan W.

*Some answers have been edited for length or clarity.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Co-Dependency

Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.

Who Does Co-dependency Affect?

Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, co-dependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any co-dependent person from any dysfunctional family.

What is a Dysfunctional Family and How Does it Lead to Co-dependency?

A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following:

  • An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
  • The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness.

Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become “survivors.” They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited

Attention and energy focus on the family member who is ill or addicted. The co-dependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of a person who is sick. When co-dependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self.

How Do Co-dependent People Behave?

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.

They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.

The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.

Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Poor communications
  • Difficulty making decisions

Questionnaire To Identify Signs Of Co-dependency

This condition appears to run in different degrees, whereby the intensity of symptoms are on a spectrum of severity, as opposed to an all or nothing scale. Please note that only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of co-dependency; not everyone experiencing these symptoms suffers from co-dependency.

1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?

2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?

3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?

4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?

5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?

6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?

7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?

8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?

9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?

10. Have you ever felt inadequate?

11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?

12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?

13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?

14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?

15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?

16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?

17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?

18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?

19. Do you have trouble asking for help?

20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?

If you identify with several of these symptoms; are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships; you should consider seeking professional help. Arrange for a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or psychologist experienced in treating co-dependency.

How is Co-dependency Treated?

Because co-dependency is usually rooted in a person’s childhood, treatment often involves exploration into early childhood issues and their relationship to current destructive behavior patterns. Treatment includes education, experiential groups, and individual and group therapy through which co-dependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behavior patterns. Treatment also focuses on helping patients getting in touch with feelings that have been buried during childhood and on reconstructing family dynamics. The goal is to allow them to experience their full range of feelings again.

When Co-dependency Hits Home

The first step in changing unhealthy behavior is to understand it. It is important for co-dependents and their family members to educate themselves about the course and cycle of addiction and how it extends into their relationships. Libraries, drug and alcohol abuse treatment centers and mental health centers often offer educational materials and programs to the public.

A lot of change and growth is necessary for the co-dependent and his or her family. Any caretaking behavior that allows or enables abuse to continue in the family needs to be recognized and stopped. The co-dependent must identify and embrace his or her feelings and needs. This may include learning to say “no,” to be loving yet tough, and learning to be self-reliant. People find freedom, love, and serenity in their recovery.

Hope lies in learning more. The more you understand co-dependency the better you can cope with its effects. Reaching out for information and assistance can help someone live a healthier, more fulfilling life.