co-dependency and a mentally ill childCo-dependency crosses all lines of relationships.  Whether it is family, friends or lovers, co-dependency can be really scary as the vicious cyclical nature of it freezes an individual’s ability to move forward in life which disallows personal growth and independence.  When you become dependent on another person, or you get caught in-between total autonomy and co-dependency, that routine of dependency disallows you to break away and stand on your own two feet.  Let’s take a look at one relationship in particular:

Parent & Child

A lot of parents struggle with finding a balance to support their child, or cut them off.  When is it time to let go?  Do you stop financially supporting your child when he or she turns 18 years old and goes to college, or when they graduate college, or when they move out of the house?  What if they move back in the house; do you financially help them if they can’t find a job?  A lot of families are dealing with a generation of children that are moving back home.  For whatever reason that causes this occurrence, it presents itself a difficult situation for both the child and the parent.

Case in point, things get sticky when your child is mentally ill. 

When a child suffers from a mental illness you may find yourself walking the line of allowing co-dependency to exist.  Ask yourself why.  Do you feel guilty that your child turned out inheriting a mental illness from your mother or father so pay for their medical insurance? If so, how do you manage that stress or make sure you aren’t causing a delay in your child’s personal success and ability to survive sans your support. If they don’t have a job, and no access to medical insurance, does the weight of that reality fall heavy on the parent because their child still needs to take their meds?

The array of circumstances that challenge us to know when co-dependency becomes problematic is gray.  It is gray and not easy to navigate.  Ask yourself if you are the problem. Are you enabling a bad habit because you can’t cut the chord, which results in a negative co-dependent relationship?  Or would the person fall short if they didn’t have a certain amount of support? And where do you draw that wobbly line.

These are difficult questions to examine but something to consider for it’s not black and white, especially when it comes down to a loved one that has a mental illness. 

Sad mom photo available from Shutterstock



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    Last reviewed: 21 Nov 2012

APA Reference
Loberg, E. (2012). Co-dependency and Mental Illness – Where do you weigh in on managing your child. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2015, from


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