Codependency and codependent are often used to describe abusive or unhealthy relationships. When drug abuse or mental disorders occur in a family, this can result in codependency between teens and parents. Researchers have defined codependency as a learned behavior that is passed down from one generation to the next.
What Is Codependency?
Codependency is an emotional condition in which one person is controlled or manipulated by another. Often, the person doing the manipulating is affected with a psychological condition, such as a substance use disorder or gambling addiction. Codependency is characterized by a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship in which one person relies on the other to meet their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables an individual to maintain their irresponsible or addictive behavior while remaining financially dependent. A codependent relationship tends to be defined as a situational or episodic behavior, similar to that of dependent personality disorder.
Codependency affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually rewarding relationship. When the definition was first developed, codependent was a term used to describe the experiences of the spouses of alcoholics. As understanding of the codependency condition expanded, the phrase was applied to describe people in relationships with unequal power balances, as well as people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals.
Research has shown that codependent symptoms get worse if left untreated. If treated, however, a codependent person can improve their ability to have healthy relationships. Talk therapy and group therapy have both proven to be effective treatment modalities for codependency.