According to a report in the Journal of Psychiatric Nursing, 40 million men and women in America have diagnosable codependency, such as self-love deficit disorder. Most of those defined as codependent are women.
Until recently, descriptions of codependency have traditionally focused on characteristics that make a person seem weak. The term itself is confusing.
Treatment for codependency through the years has focused on taking a journey into your past, your childhood, because that is where it all began. It also focuses on identifying self-destructive thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
It was associated with addiction, narrowly and specifically with drugs and alcohol. This type of treatment focuses on the negative to bring healing. But can you heal if you only focus on the negative aspects of a problem?
This may be the question so many mental health professionals were asking and that led psychotherapist Dr. Ross Rosenberg to start digging deeper and creating a much healthier definition, as well as a positive recovery plan.
He started by changing the name of the disorder.
Self-Love Deficit Disorder
The name “codependency” makes it hard to envision change, or the hope of change. There is no implication of recovery. This creates a stigma, making people feel even more unworthy of help.
Ross Rosenberg made it a mission to improve how we define and heal from what is now called Self-Love Deficit Disorder or SLDD. In this form, treatment can focus on the trauma, core shame, pathological loneliness and addiction disorder.
This process allows a person to transition from deficient in self-love to feeling abundant in self-love.
Characteristics of SLDD
A mental health professional is the only one who can diagnose Self-Love Deficit Disorder, but people often will have noticeable characteristics that are common to the disorder.
These characteristics include taking responsibility for the actions of others, a need to control others, fear of being abandoned or alone, and they feel guilty when they try and assert themselves.
SLDD may also appear as:
- Feeling hurt when their efforts are not recognized,
- Going above and beyond with everything,
- Needing approval from others, and
- Doing anything to hold on to a relationship.
These almost seem to contradict other common traits found among those with SLDD.
Chronic anger, inability to adjust to change, problems with intimacy, lying and poor communications are usually evident.
How Do You Get Self-Love Deficit Disorder?
Self-Love Deficit Disorder, formerly known as codependency, starts when you are a child being raised by a narcissist or SLDD/codependent parent.
Rosenberg explains SLDD in the form of a pyramid.
At the bottom, attachment trauma. This is where it all begins, a narcissist parent gives only conditional or judgmental love to their child. The child doesn’t understand they are experiencing a trauma. They don’t understand that the dysfunction in their family is very wrong and detrimental.
The child represses the trauma itself. But they start a long journey of feeling unworthy of unconditional love. They start on a path towards a core shame, feelings that lead the child to think they are only valuable if they are pleasing someone else.
Children can’t build a positive definition of themselves. Instead, it becomes very distorted and leads to loneliness in all relationships because they don’t feel loved or worthy of being loved. To cope with these negative feelings, the child, now close to or in adulthood, will choose to self-medicate.
Because they still lack an understanding of SLDD, they find themselves dating people that treat them in a similar manner to how their parent treated them. It can seem as if they are addicted to the narcissist. They feel compelled to stay with them even though the person treats them poorly.
This level of dysfunction stays with them into adulthood and until they get help.
The final level, according to Rosenberg, is complete SLDD, in which the person becomes more of a caretaker. They will often try and manipulate or control others into loving them.
To counteract SLDD, Rosenberg created a Self-Love Abundance pyramid to provide a path for parents to help their children live a life full of love, especially self-love.
The Self-Love Abundance pyramid also starts at the bottom. A child is given unconditional love and acceptance. This is the foundation that will set the child up for positive relationships and experiences.
This healthy attachment leads to a healthy core of self-love rather than shame, and this is where children realize they are loved even when they make a mistake.
As they grow, kids learn how to live without being perfect, and how to develop healthy relationships.
They attract others who also feel self-love and self-worth. All of this leads to the overall feeling of self-love, allowing them to accept their place in the world.
The Road to Recovery
Healing is a process of unveiling and confronting the past traumas (as defined by codependency). But it also involves unveiling, accepting, and loving yourself.
You redefine your past, from insignificant and unworthy, to valuable and adored, even when alone.
You can find multiple avenues of self-love and understand that how your parent treated you as a child was not your fault. Overcome your trauma and thrive in the future.
What You Can Do
If you or your child or someone you know struggles with SLDD, help is available.
Feeling inadequate, being scared to ask for help, worrying about what others think, and doubting your abilities no longer need to be a part of you or your child’s life.
Reach out for help. For your child, seek help from a treatment facility that provides services specifically to their age group. They can heal with peers and feel less alone in the process.
For you, seek help from a therapist who specializes in Self-Love Deficiency Disorder.
Start your journey today of healing from the past and beginning a new life filled with abundance of all things good.
Paradigm Austin is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.