Definitions of Codependency

Back to BLOG    Back to Codependency Recovery

A variety of definitions of Codependency— (hint) The easy one is at the end

Definition #1. “Codependency is a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing great emotional pain and stress. These behaviors are passed on from generation to generation whether alcoholism is present or not. In other words, the original alcoholic or drug dependent person may have been a great-grandfather. No one else for three or four generations may actually become alcoholic but most family members within those three or four generations have learned to use a set of behaviors which help them deal with the emotional pain and stress inherited from the original alcoholic family and which continues to create emotional pain and stress even to the present time. This set of behaviors eventually becomes codependency or dependency disorders”.

Definition #2. “Codependence is a learned behavior stemming from neglect, abandonment and other abuse occurring in the family or other social settings. This abuse, whether obvious or subtle, real or perceived, can create a false sense of self leading to unhealthy dependency upon relationships with people, places and things.” Extracted from “Signs of Codependence” National Council on Codependence, Inc. 6155 East Indian School Road #B103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Definition #3. “Codependence is a pattern of painful dependence on compulsive behaviors and approval from others in an attempt to find emotional safety and self worth and identity.”

Definition #4. “Codependents use an external frame of reference, Codependents focus all of their attention on what their partner is doing or not doing.
Codependents use the relationship the way someone might use alcohol or drugs. They are addicted to another person and believe they can’t function independently of that person or without the relationship they have with the person.

Codependents cannot define their psychological boundaries. They don’t know where they end and others begin. They tend to take on the problem of others as their own and may be resentful when they don’t get the credit they think they should for doing so.
Codependents always try to make a good impression on others. This is a way in which codependent people try to control the perceptions of others. They are people pleasers.

Codependents do not trust their own ideas, perceptions, feelings or beliefs. Codependents will defer to the opinions of others and not stand by their own ideas and opinions.
Codependents will try to make themselves indispensable to others. They will knock themselves out to take care of things for others that these people could actually do for themselves.

Codependents play the Martyr. They learn to suffer but do it gallantly. They will put up with intolerable situations because they think they have to and are often resentful for not being given credit for their suffering.
Codependents are skilled at controlling others. They try to control everything but usually fail because it is an impossible task.

Codependents are out of touch with their true feelings. They distort feelings and only express them when they feel justified to do so.
Codependents are gullible. Because they are not in touch with their feelings, they lack discernment. They are bad judges of character and only see what they want to see or are

capable of seeing.
Codependents tend to be cut off from their spiritual side of life but may go through the motions to appear acceptable.
Codependents are fearful, rigid and judgmental. Black and white thinking dominates the lives of co- dependents”.

Definition #5 Diagnostic Criteria for Codependent Personality Disorder

  1. Continued investment of self-esteem in the ability to control both oneself and others in the face of

serious adverse consequences

Assumption of responsibility for meeting others’ needs to the exclusion of acknowledging one’s


Anxiety and boundary distortions around intimacy and separation.

Enmeshment in relationships with personality disordered, chemically dependent, other codependent,

and/or impulsive disordered individuals.

Three of the following: Excessive reliance on denial, Constriction of emotions (with or without

dramatic outburst), depression, hyper vigilance, compulsions, anxiety, substance abuse, has been (or is) the victim of recurrent physical or sexual abuse, stress-related medical illnesses, has remained in a primary relationship with an active substance abuser for at least two years without seeking outside help.

Definition #6. Codependence is a learned behavior stemming from neglect, abandonment and other abuse occurring in the family or other social settings. This abuse, whether obvious or subtle, can create a false sense of self, leading to unhealthy dependence upon relationships with people, places and things The resulting counter-productive attempts to heal the damaged self may result in many consequences, including: Alcoholism, Other chemical dependencies, addictive and compulsive disorders, extreme mood swings, intimacy disorders, sexual dysfunction, stress related illness, unhealthy relationships. The codependent’s false sense of self causes feelings ranging from extreme inadequacy to grandiosity. The learned behaviors often include issues of control or the desire to please other people despite the detrimental costs to the self.

Definition #7. Codependency is a state of dis-ease caused by child abuse that renders a person unable to A. Experience appropriate levels of self-esteem (realize their own preciousness). It is empowered by abuse, therefore “so and so” is better than you. A person feels “less than”. Other people have more worth than you (low self-esteem) or you’re better than others. (Grandiose) B. Unable to set appropriate boundaries with other people for fear of offending others. C. Difficulty owning our own reality. D. Codependents have difficulty taking care of their needs and wants.

(Notes taken from a seminar given by Pia Melody, author of “Facing Codependency”

Definition #8. Codependency is a condition that results in a dysfunctional relationship between the codependent and other people. A codependent is addicted to helping someone. They need to be needed. This addiction is sometimes so strong, the codependent will cause the other person to continue to be needy. This behavior is called enabling. The enabler will purposefully overlook someone abusing a child, will call in sick for someone suffering from addiction, will put roadblocks to prevent their child from becoming independent, or even keep a sick family member from getting the treatment that would make them well. These are behaviors common to codependents. A codependent often suffers from a ‘Messiah Complex’ where he sees problems with everyone and sees himself as the only person who can help. Here is where I need to work....trying to be ‘Mr. Fixit’ for everyone...even those who don’t feel they need anything fixed. A codependent counselor will never think your sessions are done. In fact, they often create issues that weren’t there just so they can continue to feel they’re an important, no, essential part of your life.......That’s what codependence addiction to being needed. (E Home Fellowship Help With Life)

EASY DEFINITION: EXTERNALLY CENTERED and OUT OF BALANCE! Extracted from nameless papers passed out at 12-step meetings. Compiled by Helen Bair 

Back to BLOG           Back to Codependency Recovery

~The originator of many of these articles & flyers, unknown12-steps of Codependents Anonymous