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What Is Co-Dependency?

Jonathan Riley

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behaviour affect him or her and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behaviour” – Melody Beattie

Do find yourself making lots of sacrifices for other people’s happiness, but not getting much in return? Do you find yourself people pleasing, setting poor boundaries, having low self-esteem, love addiction, staying in abusive relationships, or helping people at the expense of yourself? If so, you could be struggling with codependency.

Codependency is not something commonly talked about in our society but is an issue that affects many people around the globe. Like most things, codependency varies on a scale from minimal to severe. There are many definitions used to talk about codependency today. Here are 2 definitions I have found most useful when defining codependency. Firstly, Wegscheider-Cruse (1989) described codependence as a condition that is characterised by extreme dependence (emotionally, socially, and sometimes physically) upon another person or an object. Secondly, John Bradshaw defines codependency as a “loss of inner reality and an addiction to outer reality” (Bradshaw, 1993).

A codependent is someone who cannot function on their own and whose thinking and behaviour is instead organised around another person, process, or substance (Lancer, 2012). Codependents tend to place a lower priority on their own needs while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others (Co-Dependents Anonymous, n.d.). Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendships, romantic, or community relationships. According to Wegscheider-Cruse (1989), codependence eventually becomes pathological and begins to infiltrate all of the codependent’s relationships. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity (Johnson, 2014).

The main consequence of codependency is that codependents are busy taking care of others and forget to take care of themselves, resulting in a disturbance of identity development (Knudson & Terrell, 2012). Codependent relationships are marked by intimacy problems, dependency, control, caretaking, denial, dysfunctional communication and poor boundaries (Lancer,2014).

According to Melody Beattie (1992), codependency involves a habitual system of thinking, feeling, and behaving toward ourselves and others that can cause us pain. Codependent behaviours or habits are destructive to one’s self. These codependent habits can lead us into or keep us in destructive relationships that do not work. These behaviours can sabotage relationships that may otherwise have worked. Furthermore, she emphasises that these behaviours can prevent us from finding peace and happiness with the most important person in our lives—ourselves.

Codependency patterns that remain unresolved can develop into more serious problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, sex addiction, psychosomatic illnesses, and other self-destructive behaviours. People with codependency are also more likely to attract further abuse from aggressive individuals, more likely to stay in stressful jobs or relationships, less likely to seek medical attention when needed. They are also less likely to get promotions and tend to earn less money than those without codependency patterns. Social anxiety disorders like social phobia, avoidant personality disorder, or painful shyness can develop in some people as a result of their codependency.

If you recognize these codependency patterns in your life, it’s time to take action. My Practice Counselling Melbourne specializes in helping individuals break free from codependent behaviors and build healthier, happier relationships. Don’t let codependency hold you back any longer. Take the first step towards self-discovery and healing today. Reach out to us for support and transformation.

In part 2, we will examine the traits of codependency


Beattie, Melody. (1992). Codependent no more: how to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself. [Center City, MN] :Hazelden,

Bradshaw, J. (1993). Bradshaw on: the family. Deerfield Beach (Florida): Health Communications.

Benjamin J. Sadock & Virginia A. Sadock (eds), Kaplan & Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry on CD, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 7th ed. 2000, ISBN 0-7817-2141-5, ISBN 2-07-032070-7.

Codependents Anonymous: Patterns and Characteristics Archived 2013-08-24 at the Wayback Machine

Johnson, R. Skip (13 July 2014). “Codependency and Codependent Relationships”. Retrieved 9 September 2014.

Knudson, T.M., Terrell, H.K. (2012). Codependency, Perceived Interparental Conflict, and Substance Abuse in the Family of Origin. American Journal of Family Therapy, 40(3), 245-257. doi:10.1080/01926187.2011.610725

Lancer, Darlene (2012). Codependency for Dummies (1st ed.). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 30. ISBN 978-1118095225.

Lancer, Darlene (2014). Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You. Minnesota: Hazelden. pp. 63–65. ISBN 978-1-61649-533-6.