Codependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families with dependents. Codependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior. Codependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with a “dependency” problem. Originally, codependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency or persons living with an addicted person. Recently, similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with mentally disadvantaged individuals.

Mental Health America

Families in Denial

      Addicts deny that they have a problem but families are in denial too. It occurs when family members do not recognize or refuse to admit that the behaviors of their loved one is causing significant health, work, school, relationship or financial problems. It is a defense mechanism that is used to make the problem easier to live with. But denial never helps. All families are prone to denial and they themselves may contribute to the problem. They may not even realize that their own physical and mental health is being affected by their denial of a loved one’s addictive behavior. Families in denial have adapted the same behavioral patterns as that of the dependent in the family.


      Many codependents do not recognize that they are an enabler to the dependent. Although enabling begins as a way to protect the dependent from harm, many do not realize that they have already become part of the problem. Enabling means giving “help” that actually makes the problem worse. But long term, it only reinforces the addictive behavior, and leads away from the possibility of recovery.

Recovered Family