The pattern of seeking the approval of something external in order to develop a sense of internal safety, self-worth, and self-esteem is defined as codependency. The reliance on something or someone else for our identity can quickly become a problem. When obsession over the opinions of others interferes with daily functioning, formal treatment is needed, just like when substance use has reached a level of harmful abuse or addiction.
The termcodependency was first used to describe the dynamic between an alcoholic and his or her partner or the co-alcoholic. This person enables the alcoholic's choices and behaviors, usually because his or her childhood was dysfunctional, which often even included an alcoholic parent.
The term codependent was then used to label the person who enabled the alcoholic. While codependency is not a formal diagnosis, organizations like the APA recognize codependency as a personality disorder. Others believe that codependency stems from the philosophies created in the human mind from a very young age. Depending upon how someone was raised, how parents modeled behaviors, and what meaning the individual made of the surrounding environment, codependency can become a way of life.
Codependency interferes with a person's ability to maintain healthy self-care while involved in a relationship. Therapeutic intervention can help identify and heal the effects of codependency that hinder your life.
Individuals who suffer from codependency find that their moods and feelings of comfort or discomfort are tied directly to how another person feels at that point in time. Frequently, that other person is physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive and/or is a substance abuser. The codependent individual gives over his or her sense of self, entire identity, and daily level of happiness to the abuser, and the need to influence another person can become so extreme that the codependent individual's own needs are ignored, even when the results are negative personal consequences.
As a consequence, codependency is regarded as the voluntary connection of one's own self-esteem to another person in the frequently deluded assumption that the result will be the control of the behaviors exhibited by that other individual. It is possible for one's contentment and sense of safety to become inextricably entwined with another person to the point where their relationship with that person consumes their entire world and becomes the primary focus of their day-to-day activities.
People on all sides of these relationships are able to make informed judgments about how to make changes when codependency can be diagnosed. Children of people with codependency can break the cycle and go on to have healthier relationships in the future. Family members can learn how to help loved ones, spouses can gain the self-esteem necessary to make personal choices rather than completely selfless decisions, and family members can learn how to help loved ones.
Recognizing that you are in a codependent relationship is a vitally important first step. From there,therapeutic therapies can be helpful in understanding the underlying causes of codependency and the ways in which an individual's ideas about relationships influence the course of his or her life.