Codependency is a concept first developed in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), to describe the way in which dysfunctional family relationships can negatively enable alcoholics. Therefore, AA and Al-Anon literature includes the earliest definitions of a codependent relationship.
Codependency is a term for a dysfunctional relationship in which one person supports or enables another person’s negative behaviors, ranging from drug addiction to detrimental immaturity. Furthermore, codependency affects an individual’s ability to have healthy, mutually satisfying relationships with appropriate boundaries. Thus, people with codependent symptoms often form relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and potentially abusive.
Also known as relationship addiction, codependency is often a learned behavior, passed down from one generation to the next. Consequently, children become codependent by watching and imitating family members.
Codependent symptoms include low self-esteem, putting aside one’s own interests and values in favor of helping others, and remaining in situations and relationships that are harmful. As a result, codependent recovery is difficult because people in such relationships often do not acknowledge that a problem exists.
Sources: Mental Health America, US National Library of Medicine (NIH), Co-Dependents Anonymous International