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by Susan M. Hall, M Ed, LPC

Codependency was originally a term used for people involved in a close relationship with an alcoholic or a chemically dependent person, but today it is recognized as a problem for anyone raised in a dysfunctional or chaotic family system.  The origins of codependency are born of a dysfunctional family system.  A codependent relies on others as a sole source of identity, value, and well-being and is often unable to recognize or value their own needs, putting others needs before their own.  In much the same way that chemically dependent persons use chemicals to numbs their feelings, codependents will use relationships, worrying, eating, caretaking, etc., in order not to feel their feelings. Being concerned for others is not an unhealthy trait and the following information may help you distinguish between normal interdependent relationships and codependency.


Characteristics of codependency include: (1) caretaking of others to the extent you neglect your own needs; (2) believing that everything that happens to a significant other happens because of something the codependent did;  (3) distorting boundaries resulting in being very intrusive and not allowing others to work out their own problems; (4) struggling with control issues and believing they can and should be able to control everything and everyone around them; (5) being out of touch with their own feelings and/or distortion of feelings.


In looking at these characteristics, it is important to keep in mind that most people possess many of these traits in varying degrees.  That doesn't mean that everyone is codependent.  But when these characteristics reach the magnitude where they interfere with the person's ability to function or to live a life without pain, then it is time to examine the situation and perhaps reach out for help in healing


Therapy is often necessary for the recovery process, as codependency is seen as an addiction.   For self-help, Co-Dependents Anonymous is an excellent recovery program.  CODA is a twelve step program based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  You can find a local CODA meeting at



Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie

Facing Codependency by Pia Mellody

Codependence:  Misunderstood-Mistreated by Anne Wilson Shaef



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