A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies | View All


You're codependent for sure if, when you die,
someone else's life flashes in front of your eyes.

Codependency is a term used to describe a kind of addiction, a relationship addiction. A person is said to be suffering from codependency when they exhibit caring for a loved one who is suffering from a real addiction to drugs or alcohol. The behavior of the caring individual is said to hinder recovery of the real addict by enabling the addict to continue the addiction. Codependency makes it seem as if all caring for addicts is pathological.

....the codependency movement...does not recognize or confront the social and economic realities in people's lives. It does not distinguish the dependencies that are healthy and desirable (loving and needing others) from those that are economically imposed (such as not having the financial resources to leave a violent marriage). It speaks of self-esteem as if it were air in a balloon, something that can be inflated and deflated with sheer willpower, unrelated to anything that people do, to their experiences in the world, to the context of their lives. --Carol Tavris

This model of codependency has been made popular by the writings of several people, especially Melody Beattie (Codependency No More), Pia Mellody (Facing Codependency), Robin Norwood (Women Who Love Too Much) and Anne Wilson Schaef (Codependency, Misunderstood, Mistreated). According to these people, the codependent suffers from low self-esteem due most likely to child abuse, and is caring mainly to keep the addict addicted so she (it is usually a woman) can feel worthwhile by caring for the sick one. The codependent, they believe, can be helped, as can other addicts, by the 12-step plan of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Some see codependency as pathological itself, indicative of a trend among certain therapists, especially those who call themselves "family counselors," to see child abuse as the root cause of most personal problems. The model these counselors follow seems to be something like the following: child abuse causes low self-esteem, which leads people to abuse drugs or alcohol and other people as well. If only one had a happy childhood, free from abusers, one would have a wonderful life as an adult. The person with problems--the drug addict, the relationship addict, the sex addict, the name-your-craving addict--is a victim. Addict/victims need help. Insurance should pay for this help. Counselors should never be without long lines of addict/victims covered by insurance policies for treatment for their "disease." Society should support the work of these counselors because they have good intentions and, unlike the rest of us, are not in denial. They are especially not in denial about the likelihood that one model, the model of the diseased addict, could adequately fit all alcoholics, all substance abusers, and all other abusers of any craving.

See also substance abuse treatment.

reader comments

further reading

books and articles

Babcock, Marguerite and Christine McKay, editors. Challenging Codependency: Feminist Critiques (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995).

Kaminer, Wendy. I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1992).

Tavris, Carol. The Mismeasure of Woman (New York : Simon & Schuster,1992).


The codependency idea: when caring becomes a disease," Robert Westermeyer, Ph.D.

How the Co-dependency Movement Is Ruining Marriages

Last updated 27-Oct-2015

© Copyright 1994-2016 Robert T. Carroll * This page was designed by Cristian Popa.