Posted by: RealisticRecovery | April 19, 2009

Codependence – Definition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Codependence is a term which has been defined variously. In general, the codependent is understood to be a person who perpetuates the alcohol or drug dependence of someone close to them in a way that hampers recovery. This can be done through direct control over the dependent, by making excuses for their dysfunctional behavior or relieving them of the consequences of the dependence. In an act called enabling, this can have negative social and health consequences for both parties.


Although popularized by 12-step movements such as Adult Children of Alcoholics, codependence first emerged as a simplified form of the “dysfunctional communications patterns” identified by family systems theorists beginning in the 1960s.


Symptoms of codependence may include controlling behavior, distrust, perfectionism, avoidance of feelings, problems with intimacy, excessive caretaking, hypervigilance, or physical illness related to stress. Codependence is often accompanied by clinical depression, as the codependent person succumbs to feelings of frustration or sadness over his or her inability to improve the situation.] Codependency advocates claim that a codependent may feel shame about, or try to change, his or her most private thoughts and feelings if they conflict with those of another person. An example would be a wife making excuses for her husband’s excessive drinking and perhaps defending him by calling in sick for him when he is hung over. Such behaviors, which may well lessen conflict and ease tension within the family in the short term, are counterproductive in the long term, since, in this case, the wife is actually supporting (“enabling”) the husband’s drinking behavior. So, sometimes, the codependent is referred to as an “enabler.” It is also worth noting that since the wife in this case is dependent on the husband’s alcoholic behavior, she may actually feel disturbed, disoriented or threatened if she sees clearly that he is emerging from his dependence; the threat to her position as a confidante and needed loved one might lead her unconsciously to resist the husband’s steps towards recovery.


Individuals who are suffering from codependence may seek assistance through various therapies, sometimes accompanied by chemical therapy for accompanying depression.

In addition, there exist support groups for codependency; some of these are Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) and Al-Anon/Alateen, Celebrate Recovery], and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA), which are based on the 12-Step model of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Many books have been written on the subject of codependence. Melody Beattie was one of the first to describe such behaviors. She is the author of Codependent No More among many other volumes.


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