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Supporting Vs. Enabling: Recognizing the Difference

July 22, 2020

For many, the urge to help others comes naturally. This desire is especially true when it comes to loved ones. While providing compassion, comfort or support is gracious, it's important to note that there is a fine line between supporting and enabling. 

Enabling, which is offering help that perpetuates rather than solves a problem, is not the answer. For example, a parent who allows a child to stay home from school because they haven’t studied for a test is definitely categorized as enabling behavior. Or, a spouse who makes excuses for their hungover partner is enabling alcohol abuse. Offering money to a friend with a drug addiction "so they won't have to steal" is also enabling addiction.

An enabler takes away any motivation for the addict to take responsibility for his or her actions. Without that motivation, there is little reason for the addict to want to change. In essence, enablers are helping addicts dig themselves deeper into trouble.

If you're wondering whether or not you might be an enabler, here are some questions to ponder:

  • Do you ever lie to cover for someone else’s mistakes?

  • Do you consistently assign blame for problems to other people rather than the one who is really responsible?

  • Do you continue to offer help when it is never appreciated or acknowledged? 

  • Do you ignore unacceptable behavior or fear that not doing something will lead to violence or the person leaving you?

If you feel like you might be enabling someone in some way, know that there are resources available that can help. Treatment can be life-changing for both you and your loved one. Don't let the people you care about continue down a path of destruction. 

If you or someone you know is need of mental health care services, please reach out to us. We know that life can throw many curveballs, but we're here to support you through these experiences. To schedule an appointment, call (308) 210-8487 or email

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