What Are the Signs of Enabling?

What Are the Signs of Enabling?

Learning how to identify the signs of enabling can help you recognize when it is happening in your relationships and how to stop them. Treatment can help overcome enabling, so if you notice signs of a problem in a loved one, reach out to Water Gap Wellness Center. 

What is Enabling?

Many people think of “enabling” as a bad thing, as someone who enables or allows an individual to continue pursuing unhealthy behaviors like substance abuse or untreated mental health disorders. 

But what is enabling?

Enabling is something that often starts as a sincere effort to support your loved ones. For example:

Your loved one might start to struggle with a new job, and they come home and begin drinking at the end of a hard day. So you support them, even encourage their after-work drink when they walk through the door. You know that this calms them down a bit, and you want them to get through what you believe to be a temporary hard time. But before too long, they are turning more and more to alcohol when they are the least bit stressed, drinking a bottle of wine or five beers each night. Then they aren’t looking for solutions to managing their work stress or ways to change their depression because they, instead, turn to alcohol. 

Enabling is when a person’s actions promote or support unhealthy actions or behaviors in others, like manipulation, breaking the law, and substance abuse. 

Enabling can be directly or indirectly supporting those unhealthy tendencies. 

Signs of Enabling 

Many signs of enabling are when you, as the potential enabler, take responsibility for the actions or emotions of a loved one. 

For example:

You explain why your spouse couldn’t go to work, even though you know they weren’t at work because of a hangover. 

Other signs can be focusing your energies or time covering up for places where a loved one isn’t doing well or performing to their abilities. The signs of enabling are not about intent; signs of enabling are almost always about supporting a loved one, but those enabling tendencies do not contribute to the situation of your loved ones the way you might want. 

Enabling happens more commonly in codependent relationships. 

Am I Enabling?

If you are asking, “Am I enabling” it is good to know the signs so that you can stop it. 


If you find that you are constantly covering up for the unhealthy behaviors of your loved ones while trying to protect them, you might be enabling. You might also try to justify their behaviors to yourself and people around you by saying they’ve gone through something challenging or they have a mental health disorder, so their behaviors or patterns are excusable. You might look for ways to excuse unhealthy behavior.

However, if you continue to make excuses for harmful behavior, you provide a space for that individual to continue that habit, and you might accidentally be reinforcing that habit, preventing your loved one from dealing with the consequences and learning how to get over those harmful behaviors.

Not Caring for Yourself

When people engage in enabling, they focus the majority of their time and effort on the other person. You might notice that you are no longer putting your needs first even though the other person in your relationship is not actively contributing to it. You might even find that your actions to help your loved one are causing you unnecessary stress and additional emotional side effects.

Financial Support

A big sign of enabling is providing financial support. For example, if your loved one is spending money recklessly on things like drugs, alcohol, partying, or other things they cannot afford, you might be enabled if you keep lending them money. 

This is often done out of love, wanting to ensure your loved one isn’t homeless or without medicine, but it also teaches them that they can remain reckless. 

Compensating for the Other

It’s common for individuals who are enabled to take on the other person’s responsibilities. If, for example, your loved one is supposed to pick up your daughter from rehearsals, but they are busy with things like substance abuse, mental health disorders, or manipulative behavior, you might make excuses and then decide to pick up your daughter for them.

Allowing the other person to rely on you to complete their responsibilities can encourage them to continue behaving the way they are without finding ways to deal with their responsibilities. 

If you are worried that you are enabling, know that your actions are likely intended to support your loved one, but it is essential to help your loved one seek professional treatment so that they can manage their behavior. Water Gap Wellness Center offers comprehensive mental health treatment services that work with any schedule. 

Contact our team today to learn more about getting help for a loved one.

About WGWC

Water Gap Wellness Center offers expert and compassionate treatment for mental health and substance abuse at our Pennsylvania facility, just outside New Jersey, a short drive from New York. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you today. 

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