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In 1986, Melanie Beatty published a book called "Codependent no More" that change the addiction recovery landscape. The original definition of a codependent was people whose lives had become unmanageable as a result of living in a committed relationship with an alcoholic.

According to Melanie Beatty, the definition for codependency has expanded since then:

"Professionals began to better understand the effects of the chemically dependent person on the family, and the effects of the family on the chemically dependent person. Professionals began to identify other problems such as overeating and undereating, gambling and certain sexual behaviors. These compulsive disorders paralleled the compulsive disorder or illness of alcoholism. Professionals also began to notice many people in close relationships with these compulsive people developed patterns of reacting and coping that resembled the coping patterns of people in relationships with alcoholics. Something peculiar had happened to these families too.

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.

The other person might be a child, an adult, a lover, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a grandparent. He or she could be an alcoholic, a drug addict, a mentally or physically ill person, a normal person who occasionally has sad feelings or one of the people mentioned earlier.

But, the heart of the definition and recovery lies not in the other person – no matter how much we believe it does. It lies in ourselves, in the ways we have let other people’s behavior affect us and in the ways we try to affect them: the obsessing, the controlling, the obsessive "helping," caretaking, low self-worth bordering on self-hatred, self-repression, abundance of anger and guilt, peculiar dependency on peculiar people, attraction to and tolerance for the bizarre, other-centeredness that results in abandonment of self, communication problems, intimacy problems and an ongoing whirlwind trip through the five-stage grief process."

At Therapia, we use the work of Melanie Beatty to understand the issues of codependency and begin the process of recovery.

What is Codependency?

A codependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her and is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior.

Am I a codependent helper? Codependent caretakers may:

  • Think and feel responsible for other people and their feelings
  • Feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem
  • Feel compelled – almost forced to help that person solve the problem
  • Feel angry when help isn't effective
  • Anticipate other people's needs
  • Wonder why others don't do the same for them (attaching strings)
  • Find themselves saying "yes" when they mean "no"
  • Not know what they want and need or, if they do, think it is not important
  • Try to please others instead of themselves
  • Feel safest when giving
  • Feel insecure or guilty when somebody gives to them
  • Feel sad in spending their life in giving to others and nobody gives to them
  • Find themselves attracted to needy people and needy people attracted to them
  • Feel bored, empty and worthless if they don't have a problem/crisis to solve
  • Abandon their routine to respond or do something for someone else
  • Overcommit themselves
  • Feel harried and pressured
  • Feel angry, victimized, unappreciated and used

From Melody Beattie, "Codependent No More" 1987