Emotional Dependency

The action of waking up in the morning is not something many think twice about. Despite the begrudging attitude and the craving for those precious extra five minutes, the action as a whole is in a way involuntary; everyone wakes up ready for the new day. It’s hard to imagine the action of waking up without that involuntary sense in the back of the mind that says: it’s time to start living. The notion comes off as morbid, however it is the state of a large demographic of the American public. Mental illness rears its head to greatly affect all actions and words for many, but no battle needs to be fought alone. Support systems, present within friends, significant others, family, and/or a mental health professional, truly help a mind maneuver through a new reality. But what are the repercussions when an emotional dependency is formed in the midst of a mental illness? What begins to surface from a seemingly safe support system is a much more dangerous manipulative situation.

It may seem odd to read the words support system and then imagine negativity, but the word support is a neutral term; it isn’t inherently good, nor is it bad. Many only view the push of influence coming from a support system in to the center of the system, to the person in need, however that push of influence can go from the center out. So if the person in need is so strong, that the support system begins to deteriorate, the consequences are exponential. Life begins to mimic the slow corrosion of material in contact with acid. To put all that in much simpler terms, you as the support system are going to need help of your own if you aren’t stronger than who you’re helping. What happens then? In a way a series of rings is the best representation for a support system. However there’s another type of support system: linear.

A linear support system is the unfortunate remains of what once was a more robust and successful system. It only has two people, the one in need of help and the other attempting it. In time though there will be more pull coming from one side, which is never the safest dynamic but truly dangerous when the one in need of help grows in harmful power. It won’t matter the size of the words or actions, everything begins to seem completely minuscule in comparison to problems present. This begins to create a sense of helplessness and being useless to the one attempting to help. Those exact words don’t need to be said, but they hover right above the head until they begin to weigh heavy on the soul. These types of scenarios present themselves as a red flag for potential abusive behavior hidden behind cries for help.

When influence begins growing only on one side, it’s a result of an emotional dependency. Somewhere along the way, the person in need begins to unload an entire emotional responsibility onto a single person. When a support system consists of close personal people, with no actual healthcare professional’s guidance, it’s natural for people to crumble. Soon the support system crumbles leaving one person to accept the responsibility of everyone. At times it’s hard to clarify whether the last remaining is the strongest, or because of fear. The reason for fear is because, when emotional dependency is established by the person in need it begins to change the dynamic of relationships. Friendships break, relationships become strained, and every action and word spoken appears tainted to all parties. Emotional dependency strips away reality and allows room for paranoia and disbelief. Entire foundations break apart and when it’s just one on one, unless one happens to be some supernatural power, it’s natural for bonds to break.

Now the previous statement will make it seem like no friendship or relationship is strong enough to handle mental illness, and that isn’t the case. Bonds break when the relationship turns into a power play, and when emotional dependency grows it begins to establish a new foundation of manipulation. In fact there are people that argue to pardon everything that is said or done when mental illness is involved, but there’s a line between the effects of mental illness and clear emotional abuse.

“Well I was depressed so nothing I said counts, you have to forgive me.”

“That was my anxiety lashing out, you know I didn’t mean that.”

Instead of apologies and communication, the dynamic begins to transition into volatile frustration and apologies. It is true that when your mind becomes heavy and the painful behavior kicks in there isn’t always full control over actions and words, but that’s not meant to be used as justification. Many people, including those with debilitating mental illnesses understand accountability and forgiveness and work towards building those practices even in therapy. Consistent verbal and emotional abuse isn’t and shouldn’t be tolerated because of a mental illness. In fact emotional abuse warning signs are many actions that a lot of people will label as symptoms of their mental illness, but then use to cross a dangerous line within their own lives. This abuse has ground to continue building due to the foundation of emotional dependency built throughout time within close friends or family.

Severe emotional dependency is fodder for abusers to find a correlation between mental illness and abusive actions. The same way violent drunkards blame physical harm on drinking, many abusers seek excuses for their actions and words. In terms of emotional abuse, a lot of abusers reach for mental illness as justification and grounds for pardoning. There’s a large difference between depression and/or any mental illness causing isolation and breaks in communication with a support system and constant condescending & caustic communication. Once a support system enters a linear structure, once it’s just one on one, it feels like there is no escape. Feelings of guilt are easily manipulated to placate the one remaining person to stay. For every day of emotional abuse and emotional drain, there may be a 30 minute moment of nostalgic friendly behavior. None of this erases any mental illness that may actually be present, but then that severe guilt and responsibility kicks into one person, who is extremely under-qualified to be playing god.

One person, especially another friend/family member/significant other, cannot have the existence of another life placed in the palm of their hand.

What support can come from someone who now lives knowing that every word and action, or lack thereof, have a direct effect on whether someone they love continues to survive and fight against mental illness? Essentially this linear support system becomes two people fighting their own internal battles, and potentially pulling each other further down.

Support systems are meant to aid, to share good and bad moments, and to provide a gentle push of encouragement in the right direction in times of need. They are not meant to completely resolve all issues; they especially cannot erase mental illness. Severe emotional dependency within a support system blurs the line between actual help and harm. When someone is in need, and it’s beyond the means and limits of the relationship, it’s time to ask for advice and seek help. No one is a bad person for understanding that a matter at hand is larger than a bond; knowing when to get extra help grows the bond.



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