In any healthy relationship,
whether it ’ s with a friend or a partner,
you should be able to depend on the otherperson. Hopefully,
you can count on them to keep theirpromises,
or listen to you vent if you’ve had a toughday.
But sometimes, people can become too dependenton each other.
One person can start relying on another
for all of their emotional health,
and even identity.
And that’s where codependency comes in.
It’s a word thrown around a lot in pop psychology,
and it doesn’t have a clinical definition.
But when it comes to relationships, it’snot healthy—
even if Hollywood might romanticize it.
The term codependency was first used in the1980s,
mostly by organizations like Alcoholics Anonymousand addiction counselors.
It was supposedly a condition that comes from being close
with someone who struggles with alcohol addiction.
The idea was
that a codependent person ends up supporting their loved ones
so that they never hit rock bottom,
basically when they finally realize they have a problem and change their lives.
And in doing so, the codependent person supposedly
enabled the addiction instead of helping.
But there’s no research supporting thisidea.
And abandoning someone who’s strugglingusually causes more harm.
In fact, many things that were labeled codependent,
like providing treatment or safer ways togradually fight an addiction,
are often really helpful.
These days, psychologists and counselors mainlyuse codependency
to refer to a set of observed emotional behaviorsand attachments.
And to separate it from the old, false ideasabout addiction,
they’ll sometimes call it relationship dependency,
emotional dependency, or even obsessive love.
In a codependent relationship, one personis dependent on the other
for their emotional needs, and they don’tfeel “complete”
without their romantic partner or best friend.
Some psychologists think codependency mightbe influenced by
things like personality or a traumatic eventin someone’s childhood,
like if they have a broken relationship witha caregiver.
But it’s also not something you can be clinicallydiagnosed with.
Emotional dependency can be measured withsurveys
like the Love Attitudes Scale, which was developedby psychologists
in the late 1990s to help determine someone’sfeelings about relationships.
The survey asks people to think
about their partner or hypothetical partner,
and then has them agree or disagree with statements like,
“ If my partner ignores me for a while,
I sometimes do stupid things to get their attention back. ”
If they score within a certain range, their behavior is most likely codependent. Now,
codependency or emotional dependencyis different than
something called Dependent Personality Disorder,or DPD.
This is in the DSM-5,
the most recent version of the manual
that clinical psychologists use to diagnosedifferent conditions.
People with DPD often feel totally powerless
and like they aren’t capable of caring forthemselves. Meanwhile,
someone who ’ s codependent may
think they can function independently just fine.
But if they aren ’ t in a close relationship,
they might feel lonely and emotionally unsatisfied.
And if a close relationship ends,
they ’ ll often feel stronger
grief and have a higher risk of depression
than the average person.
Not only that, but codependency is unhealthy
while a relationship is happening, too.
Multiple studies have shown that codependentrelationships
are related to depression, eating disorders,
and health problems related to stress.
Because when someone links their self worthto other people,
they may feel a need to
prove themselves or sacrifice too much
to try and make someone else happy.
And the person being depended on can feelpressure to
keep the relationship going, to avoid hurtingtheir friend.
So it really isn’t healthy for anyone.
Multiple researchers have also shown thatpeople who are codependent
are more likely to stay in abusive relationships.
They may even think this abuse comes out oflove,
or have such low self-esteem that they believethey deserve it.
Which—to be totally clear—is never true.
Even though codependency doesn’t have aspot in the DSM,
like Dependent Personality Disorder does,
it can still be treated by talking with atherapist.
A professional can help someone get out ofan abusive relationship
or friendship, or work with them to managetheir connections
and feelings in a healthier way.
And medicines like antidepressants can alsohelp with
the depression or anxiety that can go alongwith codependency.
So even though some romance movies or cheesy
#relationshipgoals graphics might glamorizerelationships
that “complete you”… it’s definitelynot true. Now,
healthy, loving relationships are important,
and tons of studies have shown
that we don ’ t do so well
if we’re cut off from other people.
But one relationship should never define someone’svalue
or be the source of all their emotional health.
That’s just not how people work.
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