The word codependent is often used casually as pop psychology jargon. It is, however, a complex psychological issue that is real and treatable. You may experience the pain of codependency as a pattern of enmeshed or abusive relationships, preoccupation with the needs of others, or anxiety and obsessive thinking about relationships.
This type of behavior typically develops in people who care deeply about someone who suffers from an addiction, illness, or mental illness such as the partner of an alcoholic or a child raised in a family affected by alcoholism. A pattern of interaction emerges where the main focus in the relationship is on the addiction or illness. Whether you’re the partner, caretaker, relative, or child your needs get sidelined and you may begin to believe those needs are less important. This lowers self-esteem. You become resentful but feel intense fear or guilt about standing up for yourself. In these situations, therapy can help you regain a sense of self.
Codependency often manifests as self-neglect in relationships. This is not something that goes away by itself or if the other person gets better. But you don’t have to handle it alone. Through treatment, you’ll learn ways to disrupt patterns of self-neglect that can improve your self-esteem as well as the quality and functioning of your relationships.