What is Codependency?

Merriam-Webster defines codependency as a “psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (such as an addiction to alcohol or heroin,” or, more broadly, it is the “dependence on the needs of or control by another.” Codependency was originally thought to be a problem specific to the families of individuals suffering from addiction, but has since grown to include other forms of unhealthy relationships.
Being in a relationship with a person who is suffering from addiction can be difficult. They can cause extreme amounts of stress and emotional problems. According to the Positive Psychology Program, “codependency is a psychological concept that refers to people who feel extreme amounts of dependence on certain loved ones in their lives, and who feel responsible for the feelings and actions of those loved ones.” The extreme dependence one person has on another can result in major personal problems. Codependents will often be so involved in taking care of another person that they are rarely able to care for themselves or address their own needs.
Codependent relationships are much more than just clingy. According to Medical News Today, codependent relationships often include emotional or physical abuse, and “like any mental or emotional health issue, treatment requires time and effort, as well as the help of a clinician.” A codependent person will often make extreme sacrifices in their own lives, such as their responsibilities, career, or other relationships, in order to care for and please their partner: “One person feels that their desires and needs are unimportant and will not express them. They may have difficulty recognizing their own feelings or needs at all.” Overtime, a codependent relationship can do severe damage to a person’s mental and emotional health, as well as their own sense of identity.
There are a variety of warning signs that a person’s relationship has shifted into codependency. Lindsay Dodgson, in a 2018 Business Insider article entitled Experts say codependent relationships are damaging– here are 8 warning signs you’re in one, explains that these warnings signs occur when you start filling in the gaps, you want to ‘fix’ your partner, you lose all your boundaries, you don’t feel like you have our own independent life, you lose contact with friends and family, you need to ask for approval, your partner has unhealthy habits, and you’re always looking for reassurance. When a codependent relationship occurs with a person suffering from addiction, these problems are often take to damaging and unhealthy extremes.

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