Relational Disorders & Addiction Treatment

Along with the obvious physical effects of addiction, during the course of drug abuse addicts develop certain behaviors that inevitably bleed into their interactions with others. While addicts no doubt enter into dysfunctional relationships with those around them, friends and loved ones face a high risk of developing relational disorders as far as their interactions with an addicted loved one go. Understanding how relational disorders work to support the addict’s compulsive drug-using behaviors can go a long way towards ensuring all parties involved seek out needed treatment help.

Relational Disorders

Any destructive behavior pattern that persists for months or years at a time plants the seeds for “disorder” to take root within a person’s life. According to USA Today, the same can be said for relationship interactions between two or more people.

Whereas psychological disorder derives from one person’s mental dysfunction, relational disorders stem from the interactions that take place within a relationship. In effect, the relationship becomes the source of the problem not the people in it.

Signs of relational disorder include:

  • Ongoing patterns of behavior that cause hurt feelings
  • Decline in quality of life due to ongoing conflict
  • Causes health problems to develop for one or both people
  • An inability to break destructive communication patterns

Relationship Disorders and Addiction

relational disorders

Those with a relational disorder often form negative communication habits.

During the course of drug abuse, addicts and loved ones often enter into patterns of behavior that work to support the addict’s continued drug use. Over time, these patterns form the basis for relational disorders to take root.

According to Iowa State University, it can be difficult to break these patterns once the addict enters treatment, which can ultimately compromise his or her recovery efforts. While it’s essential for the addict to receive needed treatment help, the presence of relational disorders may require loved ones to enter into the treatment process.

Addressing Relational Disorders within the Addiction Treatment Process

Couples Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Intimate relationships exert considerable influence over a person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors. According to the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs & Practices, this type of relationship can play a pivotal role in helping to motivate the addict in recovery.

Couples therapy in addiction treatment works to create positive feelings in the relationship while developing constructive communication skills between partners. In effect, treating the “relationship” helps to support the addict’s motivations to get and stay well.

Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Addiction operates as a family-based or generational disorder, affecting individual family members as well as the family as a whole. Much like what takes place in intimate relationships, families exist as a “system” or network of relationships that follow certain communicative and behavioral patterns.

Family therapy in addiction treatment addresses the addiction-based communication/behavioral patterns that hamper the addict’s recovery success. In the process, each family member addresses his or her own emotional issues as they relate to the addict’s behaviors.


While the recovering addict is ultimately responsible for the choices he or she makes, it’s essential that friends and family hold him or her accountable for any negative consequences that result from drug use. In this respect, addressing relational disorders within addiction treatment process is essential to the addict’s success in recovery.


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