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Dependency on addictive substances has been known for centuries, but the concept of codependency got its name only as recently as

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There is much more to this term than everyday clinginess. Codependent relationships are far more extreme than this.

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Do you feed off others' neediness, or devote all your energy to your one and only? You could be codependent. There are codependent couples, codependent companions, and codependent caretakers.


But what does codependent actually mean — and is it really all that bad? Becker says. According to Mental Health Americacodependency is often referred to as "relationship addiction," in that codependent people tend to form and become dependent on unhealthy, emotionally harmful relationships.

What's behind this behavior, though, is typically subconscious — one person is not necessarily knowingly trying to manipulate the other, even if that's the outcome. Similarly, a person who defines himself through the relationship may not be doing so in a conscious way. Gaining awareness of the subconscious motivations at work is key to improving the situation.

Enabling is a of an unhealthy codependence. Enabling behavior, which is rarely seen in healthy relationshipsincludes bailing your partner out of jail or financial problemsrepeatedly giving him or her another chance, ignoring the problem, accepting excuses, always being the one trying to fix the problem, or constantly coming to the rescue in other ways.

Having a codependent personality is not currently considered a diagnosable mental health condition.

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But some research has suggested a connection between codependent traits and conditions that are recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the guide used by mental health professionals for diagnosis. For instance, an exploratory study in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly found a correlation between codependency and borderline personality disorder traits.

Not all codependent relationships turn sour, Becker says. For example, it's reasonable if one partner looks to another for advice or guidance on a major decision, he says. But if you seek out, maintain, or even feed off relationships that are not fulfilling or healthy, you could be codependent.


Once codependency is identified, it can be successfully treated, Becker says. Here's how. Pursue counseling. Codependency from a failure to set personal boundariesand learning how to do that — through therapy — is essential to healing. Consider couples therapy. Sometimes the relationship can be helped or even saved by therapy to reduce codependency, Becker says.

Break free from a codependent relationship with our help

Reconnect with friends and family. Seek treatment for substance abuse. Additional reporting by Denise Mann. Health Topics. Health Tools.

What's to know about codependent relationships?

Emotional Health. Last Updated: July 16, Medically Reviewed. What Is Codependency?

s of codependency include: Difficulty making decisions in a relationship Difficulty identifying your feelings Difficulty communicating in a relationship Valuing the approval of others more than valuing yourself Lacking trust in yourself and having poor self-esteem Having fears of abandonment or an obsessive need for approval Having an unhealthy dependence on relationships, even at your own cost Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others RELATED: 10 Ways to Boost Your Emotional Health Is a Codependent Relationship Really That Bad?