According to American Psychological Association, enabling is a process where a person (i.e., the enabler) supports/conceals the harmful or problematic behavior in another person (enabled). The problematic behavior may mean drug abuse, substance abuse or domestic violence. It does not mean that the enabler directly or purposely supports a person’s addiction or harmful behavior. For example, you are dealing with your spouse’s alcohol addiction, but instead of voicing your opinion against his addictions, you chose to ignore the behavior to maintain peace.
Enabling is negative behavior. It is different from helping and supporting your loved ones. It comes from a desire to avoid conflict or an actual problem. Moreover, the enablers find themselves taking more responsibility for the actions of the enabled. However, the enabler does not realize that their actions would allow the enabled person to continue their behavior. Over time it can have a damaging effect on your loved ones, especially kids in the family.
To identify the signs of enabling, you should learn about it and act before it is too late.
What are some examples of enabling behavior?
Some examples of enabling behavior include
- Your partner frequently humiliates you in front of your friends and you ignore it, thinking that they did it for fun. This silence would enable them to do it again. Ultimately, it would bring emotional distress to you.
- Your adult child asks for money from you for their rent because they cannot manage their expenses. Helping them to pay their rent would not teach them to manage their expenses. Instead, they would become more dependent on you.
- During an argument, your partner starts to shout at you and you continue with your discussion instead of walking away. It would send a signal to the partner that their behavior was acceptable to you.
What are the signs of enabling behavior?
Enabling behavior protects people from experiencing the full consequences of their behavior. In short, they make the enabled irresponsible. The following are some of the signs of enabling behavior
- Shielding the enabled from the probable consequences of their behavior
- Trying to hide the problematic behavior of the enabled from others to keep the peace
- Covering up for the behavior of the enabled in front of teachers, friends, legal authorities, employers and other family members
- Trying to get the enabled out of the trouble by paying debts, fixing tickets, hiring lawyers and providing jobs
- Trying to blame friends, teachers, employers, family and self for the actions of the enabled
- Associating the real problem with some other conditions, such as shyness, adolescence, loneliness, coming from a broken home or having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other illnesses
- Ignoring or tolerating the behavior of the enabled
- Giving money that is undeserved or unearned
- Attempting to control situations that are not within the enabler’s limits, such as planning activities, choosing friends and getting jobs
- Making threats that have no follow-through or consistency
- Caretaking the enabled person by doing what she is expected to do for herself
If you have been doing this to someone, then it is high time to stop this behavior to prevent further damage.
How to stop enabling behavior
You can try out these methods to stop enabling someone
- Confront the person about the issue that is bothering you rather than just ignoring or tolerating it.
- Do not bail them out unnecessarily by paying their debts or fixing their troubles.
- It is ok to say no when it is necessary.
- Encourage them to seek help for their addictions.
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
American Psychological Association
Top What Does Enabling Mean Related Articles
Gambling AddictionCompulsive gambling is a disorder that affects millions in the U.S. Symptoms and signs include a preoccupation with gambling, lying to family or loved ones to hide gambling, committing crimes to finance gambling, and risking importance relationships and employment due to gambling. Treatment may incorporate participation in Gamblers' Anonymous, psychotherapy, and medications like carbamazepine, topiramate, lithium, naltrexone, antidepressants, clomipramine, and fluvoxamine.
Mental HealthMental health is an optimal way of thinking, relating to others, and feeling. All of the diagnosable mental disorders fall under the umbrella of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders are common types of mental illness. Symptoms and signs of mental illness include irritability, moodiness, insomnia, headaches, and sadness. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
Mental Health: Celebrities Who Are Open About AddictionAddiction affects people from all walks of life. See celebrities who’ve battled drug and alcohol use disorders and shared their stories.
Marijuana Addiction and AbuseCannabis use disorder is when you're addicted to marijuana. Learn more about this condition and how to treat it.
Mental Health: Substance Abuse in Older AdultsAbuse of alcohol and drugs among older people has been called the invisible epidemic. Learn what to look out for to protect yourself or a loved one.
Sexual AddictionThe term sex addiction describes the behavior of someone who has an unusually strong sex drive or sexual obsession. Sex and thoughts of sex dominate a sex addict's thinking, making it difficult to work or engage in healthy personal relationships. Sex addicts may engage in exhibitionism, voyeurism, prostitution, compulsive masturbation, or cybersex. Treatment for sex addiction includes individual counseling, marital and/or family therapy, support groups, 12-step recovery programs, and in some cases, medications.