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6 Signs of Enabling Behavior

6 Signs of Enabling Behavior

Teens who believe their parents approve of drug use are far more likely than others to become addicted

Enabling is broadly defined as giving to others the authority or ability to perform an action. It is performing actions that make something possible or easy for someone else. Although enabling can have positive aspects, and can be synonymous with empowering, in the fields of mental health and addiction, it generally has negative connotations. There are behaviors that friends or family members of people struggling with addiction engage in that protect people from the consequences of their behavior and can make it easier for them to continue their addictive lifestyle. If you think your behavior may be enabling your loved one’s addiction to prescription drugs like clonazepam, learn more about how to get him or her real help.

Why People Enable

Enabling behaviors can spring from a variety of motives. Often, the motive is simple caring and concern and a desire to help an individual who appears to be struggling. Sometimes the motivation is fear. People may fear the reactions of their loved ones if they fail to acquiesce to their wishes. They may fear that if their loved ones experience the full consequences of their behavior, such as being fired from a job, that there will be negative consequences for family members and others as well.

Denial can also contribute to enabling. It is very common for addicted individuals to fail to see the extent of their condition, but friends and family members can also respond with denial. If full consequences are not experienced, it’s easier for everyone concerned to deny the seriousness of the issue.

A 2012 Psychology Today post notes that enabling behavior can arise from an enabler’s need to build self-esteem through helping others. Enablers may also intervene in order to feel more in control of out-of-control situations. Enablers may need to feel needed, but fail to understand that what an addicted individual may appear to need and truly need are sometimes very different.

True help for addicted individuals involves helping them understand the existence and extent of their addictions. It may involve holding formal interventions, or simply having informal conversations that express concern and discuss the need to address the issue. It involves helping people find treatment and making it easier for them to fully participate and do what is necessary to recover.

Types of Enabling Behaviors

Although it is not always clear when actions move from being helpful to being enabling, there are warning signs to consider.  Any of the following behaviors are likely to be enabling and are signs of potential trouble.

  1. Lying – A common way in which this manifests is that friends and family members may help substance-abusing individuals keep their jobs by calling in sick for them when they are high, drunk, or hungover.
  2. Making excuses and downplaying the seriousness of the issue – It is easy for people to categorize substance abuse as “just a phase” or blame it on stress or other life circumstances. This can be counterproductive for people of all ages, but may be especially harmful for adolescents. A 2012 Huffington Post article notes that teens who believe their parents approve of drug use are far more likely than others to become addicted.
  3. Helping financially – Whether giving money directly, paying bills for them, or providing services they would otherwise need to buy, financial help enables addicted individuals to more easily purchase drugs or alcohol.
  4. Cleaning up messes – Although it is very natural for friends and family members of addicted individuals to want to clean up after them, it is not always helpful in the long run. People who habitually come home drunk or high, getting sick or passing out before making it to bed, but who wake up in the morning in a clean room, between clean sheets, may fail to fully connect their behavior to its consequences.
  5. Helping with legal issues – When addicted individuals get into legal trouble, their friends and family members may bail them out of jail or pay for lawyers, which can be counterproductive.
  6. Avoiding hard discussions – Enabling can include not just action, but inaction. When people choose not to confront their loved ones about addiction, they protect them from emotional consequences.

Enabling behavior is often an attempt to make things easier in the short-term, but it can make things worse over time. It is not easy to stop enabling, especially if the pattern is long-standing. Without experiencing consequences, however, it is unlikely that people who suffer from addiction will fully understand their need for treatment. There are ways in which friends and family members of people who suffer from addiction can play a role in the recovery journeys of their loved ones. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that enticements and sanctions from family members and others can have a large effect on the rate at which people enter and stay in treatment and their ultimate recovery success.

True Help for People Struggling with Addiction

If you or a loved one is ready to recover from an addiction to clonazepam or other substance, give us a call. Our helpline is toll-free and available 24 hours a day. We understand the issues and are always ready to answer your questions and help you find the treatment option that meets your needs. We can even check your insurance coverage for you if you wish, at no cost or obligation. There is no need to do this alone. Let us join your team.