Codependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a mutually satisfying, healthy relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive relationships. Robert Subby summarizes the definition of codependency the best: “Codependency is an emotional, behavioral, and psychological pattern of coping which develops as a result of prolonged exposure to and practice of a dysfunctional set of family rules. In turn, these rules make difficult or impossible the open expression of thoughts and feelings. Normal identity development is thereby interrupted; codependency is the reflection of a delayed identity development.”
Codependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members or people of influence who display this type of behavior. It can affect a parent, spouse, child, co-worker who has grown up in some form of dysfunction. This could be from the affects of abuse, addiction, separation or divorce. Even people who have grown up in a relatively stable environment can be affected by parents overworking or not spending time generally with children.
There are generally thought to be three types of codependents:
The general symptoms of codependency include:
As co-dependency has a lot of aspects, there are many forms of treatment which can help to deal with codependency issues. In counseling, a therapist would work on the loss of Self, setting healthy boundaries, assertiveness training and tools to increase self-esteem. Some would even see family therapy as relevant and for those who have sought solace in an addiction of some sort, work on this. In order to make healthy changes for yourself, one must be ready to take action against his/her current behaviors. In addition, the person will need a strong support system in which many different people, well-read on codependency, make themselves available as points of contact to the codependent person. Long-term remediation and recovery from codependency requires the identification of dysfunctional coping strategies that have persisted from childhood, as well as the recognition and acceptance of healthier choices. Left untreated, co-dependency can ruin relationships. There is a danger that when things do come to a head or as another form of coping, counter-dependency can result. In a relationship, there is often one co-dependent and one counter dependent person. Counter-dependency is the opposite side of the coin. Symptoms include emotional aloofness, inflated sense of self-esteem, blaming of others, is a people controller and victimizes before being victimized. Sufferers tend to have been abused as children where co-dependency is usually a result of neglect. Many co-dependents in their need to please see the symptoms of counter-dependency as a potential cure for them and many couples reverse these roles in the life of a relationship.
Frank Gillespie has a Master's Degree in Counseling from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. He is a nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). He has provided therapy for over 23 years. During his career, he has helped more than 10,000 people move past their obstacles towards reaching their potential and fulfillment in their lives. He practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a warm and nurturing approach. In addition to being a therapist, Frank has been an adjunct college professor teaching social work, a clinical consultant, a clinical director, and a seminar speaker. Frank has recently retired from his full time practice to focus on a part time online practice. He is married. He enjoys listening to music, watching sports, power walking, swimming, reading and writing.