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Helping involves providing support or assistance to someone in a way that promotes their well-being and independence. Enabling, on the other hand, involves providing support or assistance to someone in a way that perpetuates unhealthy or destructive behaviour.

What is enabling and helping?

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Enabling is different than helping in that enabling actually does more harm than good. When you enable someone, you are essentially doing things for them that they should be doing for themselves. This can lead to dependency and an overall feeling of helplessness. Helping, on the other hand, is about empowering someone to do something for themselves. It is about giving them the tools and support they need to succeed. Helping is about providing a temporary boost until the person is able to stand on their own two feet again.

One clear example is if you have an alcoholic friend who you keep buying drinks for, even though you know they have a problem. You’re enabling their drinking behaviour by taking away the natural consequences of their choices. If you truly want to help your friend, you would encourage them to seek treatment and abstain from alcohol altogether.

In relationships, enabling often manifests as one person constantly making excuses for their partner’s bad behaviour. Enablers are typically codependent people pleasers who have low self-esteem. They might stay in an abusive relationship because they think it’s their duty to “fix” their partner or try to change them into someone better.

On the other hand, helping your partner grow and improve doesn’t mean tolerating abuse or putting up with mistreatment. A healthy relationship requires two people who are willing and able to work on themselves independently and together. If your partner isn’t interested in personal development, then you might need to reassess whether the relationship is right for you.

How to tell the difference between enabling and helping

Enabling refers to actions that support another person’s addiction or harmful behavior. It might involve covering up for them, making excuses for them, or helping them obtain drugs or alcohol. Helping, on the other hand, is about providing support and care without enabling further addictive behavior. An important distinction to remember is that helping does not mean doing things for the person that they should be doing for themselves. That might include things like continuing to enable their drug use by giving them money or a place to stay. Instead, helping involves setting clear boundaries and expectations while still offering love and support.

While helping and enabling may seem similar, there are some key differences that can help you distinguish between the two:

  • Motivation: Helping is motivated by a desire to support someone’s well-being and encourage independence, while enabling is often motivated by a desire to avoid conflict or maintain a relationship, even if it means perpetuating unhealthy behavior.
  • Consequences: Helping typically involves providing support or assistance that leads to positive outcomes for the person receiving help, while enabling often results in negative consequences, such as perpetuating addiction, codependency, or other unhealthy patterns.
  • Empowerment: Helping focuses on empowering the person receiving help to make positive changes in their life, while enabling disempowers them by reinforcing dependency and avoiding accountability.
  • Boundaries: Helping involves setting healthy boundaries and promoting independence, while enabling involves crossing healthy boundaries and enabling the person to continue engaging in harmful behavior.

What is the difference between helping and enabling children?

Enabling is when you do something for someone that they can and should be doing for themselves. It’s a form of coddling that sets children up for failure because it doesn’t allow them to learn from their mistakes. Helping, on the other hand, is providing support and guidance when needed but still allowing the individual to accomplish tasks independently. This type of assistance allows children to build confidence and develop self-sufficiency.

When to enable and when to help

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Many people often confuse enabling with helping. Enabling is when you do something for someone that they should be doing for themselves. It is a form of codependency and can be harmful to both parties involved. Helping, on the other hand, is simply providing assistance to someone in need. It is not about taking over or doing things for them that they are capable of doing themselves.

So how can you tell the difference between helping and enabling? A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if the person would still be able to function without your help. If the answer is yes, then you are probably just helping them. However, if the answer is no, then you may be enabling them.

Enabling usually happens when there is an underlying issue that the person is unwilling or unable to address. For example, if someone is constantly asking for money because they spend it all on alcohol, then you would be enabling their alcoholism by giving them money. In this case, it would be more helpful to talk to them about their drinking problem and offer support in getting help from a professional treatment program.

Enabling can also occur when we do things for others that they could and should be doing themselves. This might include things like cooking and cleaning for someone who is perfectly capable of taking care of themselves but chooses not to. It can also include things like bailing out a friend who gets into legal trouble because of their

How do I help but not enable?

If you want to help someone who is struggling with addiction, it is important to make sure that you are not enabling their behavior. Enabling means that you are doing something that allows the person to continue using without facing the consequences of their actions. For example, if you consistently bail them out of jail or pay for their drugs, you are enabling their addiction.

While it can be difficult to watch someone you care about suffer, sometimes the best way to help is to let them hit rock bottom. This may mean letting them experience the negative consequences of their choices so that they are motivated to seek help. It is also important to set boundaries with the person and make it clear that you will not tolerate their addiction. By taking a firm stance, you can help them see that their behavior is not acceptable and that they need to get help in order to improve their life.

Is enabling positive or negative?

Enabling can be both positive and negative, depending on the circumstances and the outcome of the behavior.

In some cases, enabling can be positive if it helps a person to overcome a difficult situation or to maintain a sense of stability and safety. For example, if someone has a physical disability and needs assistance with certain tasks, enabling them by providing support and assistance can help them to live a more independent and fulfilling life.

However, in other cases, enabling can be negative if it perpetuates harmful or destructive behavior. For example, if someone is struggling with addiction and their loved ones provide them with financial support to continue their substance use, this is enabling behavior that can ultimately lead to negative consequences such as health problems, financial instability, and strained relationships.

Enabling can have both positive and negative outcomes depending on the situation and the behavior being enabled. It’s important to carefully assess the situation and the potential outcomes before deciding whether to enable or not. In many cases, seeking the guidance of a mental health professional can be helpful in determining the best course of

When should you stop helping someone?

There is no easy answer for when to stop helping someone. It depends on the situation and the relationship between the helper and the person being helped. In general, though, it is important to respect the other person’s autonomy and not to force help on them. If they are resistant to help or seem unable to take advantage of it, it may be time to stop. Ultimately, it is up to the helper to decide when their assistance is no longer needed or desired.

What are the positives and negatives of helping?

Helping can have both positive and negative outcomes depending on the situation and the approach taken. Some of the potential positives and negatives of helping include:


  • Improved well-being: Helping can provide a sense of purpose and meaning, and may contribute to an increased sense of well-being and life satisfaction.
  • Strengthened relationships: Helping can strengthen relationships by fostering a sense of trust and reciprocity between individuals.
  • Improved self-esteem: Helping can boost self-esteem and confidence by providing a sense of accomplishment and contribution to others.
  • Positive impact on society: Helping can have a positive impact on society by contributing to a greater sense of community and social support.


  • Burnout: Helping can be emotionally and physically draining, and may lead to burnout if the person providing help does not take care of their own well-being.
  • Dependency: Helping can create a sense of dependency in the person receiving help, which may limit their ability to be self-sufficient and independent.
  • Over-involvement: Helping can lead to over-involvement in other people’s lives, which can result in a loss of boundaries and personal space.
  • Negative impact on personal goals: Helping may take time and resources away from personal goals and aspirations, leading to a sense of resentment or frustration.

What are the positives and negatives of enabling?

Enabling can have both positive and negative outcomes, depending on the situation and the approach taken. Here are some potential positives and negatives of enabling:


  • Provides support: Enabling can provide support to individuals who are struggling with difficult situations or issues.
  • Maintains relationships: Enabling may help to maintain relationships with individuals who are struggling, which can provide a sense of stability and connection.
  • Protects from harm: In some cases, enabling can protect individuals from harm or danger, such as in situations of abuse or neglect.


  • Perpetuates harmful behavior: Enabling can perpetuate negative or destructive behavior, such as addiction or codependency.
  • Hinders personal growth: Enabling can hinder personal growth and development by preventing individuals from facing the consequences of their actions and learning from their mistakes.
  • Creates dependency: Enabling can create a sense of dependency in individuals, which can lead to a lack of self-sufficiency and independence.
  • Damages relationships: Enabling can damage relationships by perpetuating unhealthy patterns and creating resentment or frustration in both the enabler and the enabled individual.

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