One current definition of codependency describes a person who has too much emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, parent, or family member who has an illness or addiction. Generally speaking, codependency can be defined as a set of compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to adapt in a setting where there is addiction, neglect, physical or emotional abuse, chronic illness or a dysfunction that creates an environment of significant emotional pain and stress.

There are multiple “codependent” behaviors that can develop in a non-alcoholic, non-addict or non-ill partner or family member as a result of living in a home where alcoholism, drug abuse or other problematic issues are present. Over the years, the definition of codependency has expanded to encompass any dysfunctional pattern of living and problem solving that may have developed as a result of dysfunctional family dynamics.

Codependency symptoms can include:

  • Being a people pleaser and lacking assertiveness, which may involve being unable to say “no” to people or going out of your way to accommodate others
  • Being indirect or untruthful about your feelings, which may be because you’re afraid to upset someone else by expressing your true thoughts or feelings
  • Avoiding your feelings or denying your feelings, which may be illustrated by a problem with intimacy, a reluctance to get close to someone, or an inability to trust another
  • Having low self-esteem, which translates to feeling that you are not good enough or are somehow unlovable or inadequate and can lead to being controlling or a perfectionist
  • Over-controlling, which may manifest as having rigid and limiting patterns in your own behaviors, such as perfectionism or hyper-cleanliness, or trying to control the behavior or actions of those around you

Can counseling help treat codependency?

If you have codependent tendencies, counseling can help teach you to be assertive, and to become a better listener and communicator. Counseling can help you recognize your codependent behaviors and help you work on developing new, healthier behaviors and coping skills.