refers to a relationship where each person’s dysfunctional behavior supports and encourages the other’s. These behaviors, which can feel out of each person’s control, often center around addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on the other for approval and a sense of identity.


Am I codependent?

signs and symptoms of codependency

  • feeling out of control in a relationship
  • focus on the other person’s need to change
  • repeated agreements made by the codependent that violate his or her desire, comfort-level, or values
  • lack of progress or success in personal endeavors
  • feelings of resentment
  • efforts to reduce the consequences of another person’s behavior


How is codependency treated?

  1. Seek therapy from a professional who specializes in codependency, adult children of alcoholics, addiction, or family therapy. Codependency is a relational disorder, so it is necessary to seek assistance from a therapist who understands relationships, individuation, and attachment.
  2. Minimize or eliminate use of substances, including alcohol and marijuana. Whether or not your loved one is willing to do this, choosing to be sober allows you a better mental state to improve your situation. Because codependent relationships are often centered around substance abuse, eliminating these will make improving your life much easier.
  3. Develop connections with friends and family. Codependent relationships can reduce appreciation and engagement in other relationships. We all need to be part of a community, not just one relationship, for fulfillment and health.
  4. Notice how limited you’ve allowed your decision-making to become.  Codependent decision-making usually doesn’t feel like there is really much choice. The thinking is that  “I have to do _something I don’t really want to do_ because if I don’t, they will _do something I don’t like_.” Since we are each responsible for our own decisions, whenever you make a decision that doesn’t serve you, you are the only one to blame.
  5. Check out a few AlAnon, CODA or ACOA groups. Whether or not your codependent relationship involves alcohol, the nature of codependent relationships is the same. If necessary, substitute the wording “alcohol” or “alcoholic”  from these cost-free groups and literature with whatever makes sense for your relationship.


Typical Outcomes

With active recovery efforts, people who once felt trapped in codependent relationships can feel the freedom and empowerment of enjoying interdependent relationships. Codependents often describe themselves as “independent,” because they feel like they get no help from others. The truth is, they are doing things for everyone else, not taking care of themselves, and therefore feel more alone than they need to feel. Freedom from codependent behaviors includes feelings of relief and happiness, increased energy, more fulfilling relationships with friends, family, and coworkers, and the ability to pursue goals beyond what was imagined possible before seeking treatment. Learning how to heal from emotional abuse includes learning to prioritize self-care.


Your body image may affect your codependency. 

Find out how.