The term “codependency” was coined more than 20 years ago by authors who studied the negative impact of drug and alcohol use on families. Since then, use of the term has been expanded to include a pattern of psychologically unhealthy behaviors that are learned by individuals as a way of coping with a family environment marked by ignored or denied emotional turmoil.
Most people are able to enjoy a sense of healthy, mutual interdependence in their lives. However, people with codependency seem to habitually form relationships that are one-sided and emotionally destructive.
The central feature of codependency is an unhealthy dependence on relationships, usually in an attempt to avoid the feeling of abandonment.
Signs and symptoms of codependency include:
• Controlling behavior
• Mistrust of others
• Avoidance of feelings
• Excessive caretaking behavior
• Hypervigilance — a heightened awareness of potential threat or danger
If you feel that you or someone you care about may be struggling with codependency issues, consider consulting with a mental health professional who is experienced in working with individuals with these problems. The more you understand about codependency, the more likely meaningful and positive change will occur.