Frieda L. Ferrick, MFT, Grief and Loss Counseling: Are You Helping or Are You Being Co-Dependent?

It is hard to watch people you love suffer, whether it be from an illness, a bad relationship, financial woes, or addiction issues.  It is difficult to see someone struggling in their life, and it is also difficult to stay clear of our own need to help that person.  There is also the issue of feeling guilty.  If the person we love fails to resolve their issues, and they continue to do poorly, we struggle with the sense that perhaps we should do more for them.

It is important to figure out what you can do for your family member or friend, and what he or she needs to do on their own.

It  is crucial to distinguish from helping , from being co-dependent.  Co-dependency means you help someone to the point of harming yourself and/or you help someone and enable them to continue their unhealthy behavior.


Ask yourself these questions to help you figure out if you are really being helpful.

1.  When asked to help, can you do it without resentment?

2.  Are you jumping in to help before you are ever asked?

3.  Are you being asked to do something he or she can really do for themselves?

4.  Are you taking care of your own health during this time of your family member’s or friend’s problem?

5.  Are you able to delegate or simplify tasks so you have time for your own important relationships?

You might have to work harder than you normally do when a family member or friend needs extra help or support.  It helps if you can keep things in perspective and balance.

Remember, you want to be a helpful, loving family member or friend, but you don’t want to risk hurting yourself,  risking your own good health in order to keep someone else.