The concept of codependency was coined and increasingly used throughout the 1970s and 1980s in reference to people who were in unhealthy relationships with (and excessively dependent on) alcoholics/addicts.

Alcoholic/Addict: person who is unhealthily dependent on and pre-occupied with substances & getting intoxicated

Codependent: person who is unhealthily dependent on and pre-occupied with an alcoholic/addict

As more and more therapists were witnessing this "syndrome," they began to identify common psychological and behavioral traits involved in codependency. At the same time what became clear was the fact that the thinking, behavioral and relational patterns exhibited by people suffering from codependency were also exhibited by many other people who were not in any relationships with alcoholics/addicts. Thus, as the 20th turned into the 21st century, the concept of codependency began to be used much more broadly to refer to:

Patterns of thinking, feeling, behavior and relating to others that get in the way of forming and maintaining healthy and mutually satisfying relationships.

a sample of codependent patterns

There are different kinds of cognitive, emotional and relational patterns that are involved in codependency and that can serve as serious obstacles to interpersonal harmony, emotional safety, self-esteem and a sense of connection in a relationship. These patterns and characteristics of codependence are worth reading through if you think you may be struggling with codependency.

am I a codependent?

The question of “am I a codependent” can be very confusing and misleading. There's no need to overly label yourself as “a codependent.” If you struggle with some of these issues, it does not mean this is the totality of your identity. We all exhibit some unhelpful and self-defeating habits of relating to others and ourselves; it's part of the human condition. What matters most is the degree to which you are getting the results you want in your relationships. Thus, a more constructive question to ask yourself is:

Am I exhibiting patterns of codependency (i.e. non-constructive ways of thinking, feeling and relating to others) that are preventing me from forming and maintaining the relationships that I want in my life?

If the answer is yes, there is no need to despair—you are far from alone. Many people, when they come to this realization, take action and get help to grow beyond these self-defeating patterns. One thing I know for sure is that when we decide to put in the effort, we absolutely can have more satisfying relationships. I've been practicing therapy for codependency in NYC for many years, and have helped lots of men and women make very significant changes in their lives.

dependency: a misunderstood concept

People often think it is healthy to say, “I don't want to be dependent on anyone or anything.” Actually, human beings must depend on all sorts of people, processes and institutions in order to live life.

What's not constructive for us is when we drift toward the extremes of excessive dependency (preoccupation and obsession) – or – anti-dependency (emotional guardedness and isolation). The goal we need to shoot for in relationships and in life is healthy dependency (i.e. mutually satisfying and balanced inter-dependency).


Some people who see me for therapy in NYC for codependency have read one or more of the following:

  1. Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  2. Facing Codependence by Pia Melody
  3. Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw
  4. Understanding Codependency by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse & Joseph Cruse
  5. Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller
  6. Breaking Free of the Codependency Trap by J. Weinhold, B. Weinhold & John Bradshaw

nyc codependents anonymous

Over the years some people who've seen me in therapy for codependency have also attended meetings of NYC Codependents Anonymous where the only requirement for membership is “a desire to develop healthier relationships with yourself and others.” Some other people have attended NYC Alanon (which is a program founded by the wife of the alcoholic who founded Alocholics Anonymous), and still others have attended Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings. These support groups are not something everyone is interested in, but if you are curious to see what they're like, you are free to attend and observe, and there is no cost.