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How to end a codependent relationship


He finally had the strength to end a toxic relationship! (Image courtesy of stockimages at

He finally had the strength to end a toxic relationship! (Image courtesy of stockimages at

Okay, obviously that is a cheesy photo.  However, once you’re out of a codependent relationship, and have gotten beyond the grief, this is how you’ll feel!


Anyhow, let’s get to the point.  Ending a relationship from a codependent position is one of the hardest things you will ever do, or have ever done.  You have recognized your friendship, dating relationship, sibling relationship, etc. has reached very unhealthy levels.  You now realize that you are often drained of time, energy, emotional well-being, and a general feeling of joy after you are around the toxic person in your life.  You feel manipulated, guilty and exhausted after you are with the person.  You have asked yourself repeatedly, ‘Why do I continue to answer their phone calls?’  The person calls you whenever they are in crisis.  The person always needs something that “only you” can give, whether it is money, time, a place to stay, or you name-it.  When you can’t break out of this cycle, you are in a codependent relationship.  Other terms you will frequently hear are enabler and coaddict.


So, the big question is, ‘How do I stop this crazy in my life?’  That’s really what it is too: crazy-making.  You always leave a conversation feeling like the crazy one, but your friends all tell you it’s the other person.  To end this kind of relationship takes very drastic measures.  You have to come to a place of strength and reality.  You need to take a very honest look at what has been happening between you and this person.  Is this a truly reciprocal and healthy relationship?  If the answer is “no” or, “It used to be,” then it is time to move on.


Once you have really looked at the relationship, you have to tell yourself, “I will no longer enable bad behavior.  I am not responsible in any way for the outcome of this person’s life.”  Truly, the person will get better or get worse with or without you.


Next, surround yourself with good friends or family who will keep you busy and keep you grounded in reality.  The crazy-maker in your life is going to call you with a crisis because that has always worked.  You will have to either not answer the call, or simply say over and over again, “You will have to call someone else with this problem.  I have been unable to help in the past because you have not chosen to help yourself.”


Finally, you need to maintain firmly whatever boundary or rule you’ve set.  If you told the toxic person you will not call them back in the middle of the night anymore, then turn your phone off at night.  You get the idea…


Again, ending an enabling relationship is challenging beyond belief.  However, once you’re through the mud and the muck of it, you’ll feel free.  You’ll feel like the guy in the picture at the beginning of this blog post!


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Anxiety Disorder Series: Part 9, Generalized Anxiety Disorder Continued

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is overwhelming and frustrating for someone who suffers with it.  There is constant worry about something.  Each thing feels scary and real.  Usually someone who deals with GAD thinks, ‘Things will be better once this thing is past,’ but then there is always something else.


Anxiety Disorders Series: Part 9, Generalized Anxiety Disorder

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Anxiety Disorder Series: Part 8, Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Consistent worry is exhausting.
Photo Credit: marcolm/

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the last of the Anxiety Disorders I will cover in this series.  It experienced by many people, but most of them wouldn’t recognize it.


Have you known someone who always seems worried about something?  As soon as one thing is resolved there is something new bothering them.  They seem addicted to worry.  It’s almost as though they just can’t enjoy life.  For someone who doesn’t deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder it is frustrating to watch.


To have this diagnosis a person must experience persistent worry or fear for at least six months about a variety of problems.  We call these people “worry warts” in our everyday vernacular.  If your teenager is dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder you might notice an extreme worry about the next test.  As soon as the test is over you think they’ll have an enjoyable weekend.  Instead your teenager is now worried about a social problem.  Once that passes he is worried you are mad at him.  Then he worries about getting into college.  Next comes a concern about some kind of illness because of a minor physical symptom.  The worry is constant and oppressive.


I encounter more and more teenagers dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  I truly have seen an upswing in the last ten years.  I wonder whether I am better at detecting the problem now, or whether our culture is one of increasing stress and pressure.  My best guess is that both are true.  Teens run at a frenetic pace because of their phones and because of computers.  Now there is something screaming for their attention at all minutes of the day.  I bet you anything your teenager can’t even go to the bathroom without taking the phone for entertainment.


How does a therapist treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder?  There are several approaches to treatment.  The first is your teen needs to recognize he has it.  Once he realizes this then he can tell himself the present worry is being blown out of proportion because he is prone to worrying.  The second is learning not to “catastrophize” (myopia of the worst possible outcome).  The third is learning how to unplug and be still.  Once your teenager spends a week without the phone and with as little interaction as possible with the computer he will start to feel better.  The detox period (the first 72 hours) will make him miserable.  After that, he will rediscover the joy of napping in the sun, reading a book, and playing a board game.  All these things diminish anxiety.


Generalized Anxiety is completely miserable.  It is also something that can be reduced to an extent.  Once someone shows symptoms of Generalized Anxiety it becomes necessary to stop being so busy.  It is also very important to learn the skills that can help a person let go of their present worries.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Anxiety Disorder Series: Part 7, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia Continued

Panic Disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis for a person suffering from Panic Attacks.  The person has begun to avoid activities and places associated with a Panic Attack, and feels worried about when the next one might strike.


Agoraphobia is a fear of going to places where escape to a place of comfort is difficult or impossible.  When in the feared locations, a person with Agoraphobia will experience symptoms of panic.


Sometimes Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia co-occur.


Anxiety Disorder Series: Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Anxiety Disorder Series: Part 6, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia

Having Panic Disorder means always worrying about the next Panic Attack.
Photo Credit: Stuart Miles/

You hear a sound.  You’re alone at home and it’s dark in the house.  You suddenly become hypervigilant.  You were sleepy three seconds ago but now you’re wide awake.  Your heart starts racing.  Your muscles tense up as they prepare for fight or flight.  Your palms are starting to sweat and you begin to breathe hard because fear is coursing through your body.  While on high alert you are ready for the potential do or die situation you might be facing.


For people with Panic Disorder this type of fear strikes without cause and without warning.  It can happen in the most banal of situations.  The feelings are so sudden and dreadful that a person becomes fearful of their fear.  Because the fear of the fear now exists, behavior changes to try and avoid further panic attacks.  For example, a person might choose to no longer exercise since an increased heart rate is part of how their panic attacks manifest.


For some people the thought of having a panic attack in an unfamiliar place, and then not being able to get somewhere comfortable to calm down, also becomes terrifying.  This can result in Agoraphobia.  Agoraphobia means avoiding places where escape might be difficult.  Examples of this are crowded places, the mall, public transportation, or for some, even leaving their home at all.


To be clear, Panic Disorder can exist without Agoraphobia, and Agoraphobia can exist without Panic Disorder.  However, these two are often linked together.


When your teenager is dealing with Panic Attacks it can be very challenging to understand.  You might think to yourself, ‘Why would they even get nervous in this situation, they’ve done this before?’  The first thing to note is that a Panic Attack is far worse than being nervous.  Always remember that it feels the way you’d feel if you were alone in the house and thought there was an intruder.  It is an overwhelming sense of terror.


Panic Disorder can be greatly helped with a form of therapy called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.  The idea is to mimic some of the symptoms of panic until they stop being scary.  This is done very gradually and in a controlled manner.  The process is not overwhelming even though it sounds like it would be.  The other two facets of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Panic Disorder include slowly resuming activities that have been avoided because of panic, and learning to control the thoughts that lead into a Panic Attack.  These thoughts can be extremely challenging to identify, but with a good Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist they can be uncovered.


The bottom line is that Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia can be debilitating.  They are not something to ignore.  Both can cause life to become very small for the person suffering with them.  If your teenager is dealing with panic, please reach out because they do need help.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Anxiety Disorder Series: Part 5, Social Anxiety Disorder Continued

Feeling left out might be a function of Social Anxiety Disorder.
Photo Credit: hyena reality/

Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, is a huge challenge for teenagers.  It leaves them feeling frustrated, left out, confused, overwhelmed and above all else, very anxious.  For those of you who don’t have this struggle, it’s a hard problem to understand.  You don’t know why your teen feels nervous around friends.  You can’t figure out the reason your teenager doesn’t bring others around the house, or go to parties, or even like  to attend Friday night football games.


Here’s what’s happening with social anxiety: Your teenager said something at lunch to other friends.  They laughed and thought it was funny.  Normally a kid would continue the conversation and keep the jokes flowing.  Your teenage son with social phobia wonders whether the joke was funny, or whether his peers are laughing at him.  The situation is replayed in his mind over and over again.  There is distress over what others were thinking.  Your son is feeling evaluated by his peers.  He is constantly searching for clues to what others think of him.  Later, his friends Jordan and Brandon walk away from the group at lunch talking and laughing.  Your son is completely convinced they are laughing at him.  He wonders whether they are laughing at him for the stupid joke he told two hours ago.


One of the things worked on in therapy is exploring alternative reasons for people’s behavior.  If a teen can realize other people’s bad moods aren’t usually about them, they start to feel better.  In our hypothetical situation above, Jordan and Brandon have a hundred reasons they might have walked away laughing.  Once teens realize it’s not all about them, some of their angst begins to relent.


Social Anxiety Disorder can become such an intense struggle that teenagers will refuse to go to school.  They’ve convinced themselves they are disliked.  They have placed such an emphasis on being loved by peers that they cannot stand to go to places where there is an abundance of teenagers.  It is a catastrophic calamity if someone gives a dirty look.  While most teenagers will just roll their eyes and move on, a teen with social anxiety disorder just can’t let these things go.


One of the worst nightmares for a teen with social phobia is public speaking.  I had a client whose social anxiety was so overwhelming for him that he took an F in a class he could have passed because he would not give the final presentation.  He prepared the whole thing but was completely overcome by panic when it was time to present.  He actually ran out of the classroom.  Then he was so embarrassed by having run out of the class that he ditched that class period for the final two weeks of school.  He had to retake the class in summer school.


Social Anxiety Disorder truly causes a impediment in a teenager’s ability to function well in life.  He or she must get treatment for this disorder.  You can try to force your child into social situations, but often a therapist is needed when the social anxiety has progressed.  Your teenager will do whatever it takes to avoid social scrutiny.  Sometimes their world becomes very small as a result.  Getting help for this very real, very upsetting disorder is vitally important.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT