co·​de·​pen·​den·​cy ˌkō-di-ˈpen-dən(t)-sē How to pronounce codependency (audio)
: a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person manifesting low self-esteem and a strong desire for approval has an unhealthy attachment to another often controlling or manipulative person (such as a person with an addiction to alcohol or drugs)
broadly : dependence on the needs of or on control by another

Did you know?

Dependency on addictive substances has been known for centuries, but the concept of codependency got its name only as recently as 1979. For many of us, codependency isn't easy to understand; we may keep asking "Why doesn't she just leave him?" and find it hard to accept the answers we get. Codependents usually don't share their partners' addiction, but their lives tend to be taken over with the burden of caring for and protecting the spouse or partner. In recent years, people have started claiming that all kinds of conditions—anorexia, overeating, gambling, fear of intimacy, etc.—can result in codependency. Many experts think all of this has gone too far; still, almost everyone agrees that spouses of alcoholics and drug addicts face unique difficulties and should look for support and advice anywhere they can find it.

Examples of codependency in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web For some of you, this is releasing codependency on people, situations, or patterns that no longer serve you. Meghan Rose, Glamour, 1 Sep. 2023 Culturally and linguistically responsive therapy and life coaching for individuals and families of all ages, especially people who have just immigrated to the U.S. Classes on parenting, codependency and healthy relationships are also offered. Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2022 But for the bold and experienced, there exists a dizzying amount of global narratives exploring the dark side of love, where the confrontation of the necessary sacrifice to keep it going often leads to various toxicities and formidable codependency. Nicholas Bell, SPIN, 14 Feb. 2023 Sometimes, family and friends need to seek help for codependency. Michelle Pugle, Health, 23 Jan. 2023 All the signs of codependency were there. Philip Elliott, Time, 18 Feb. 2021 The Shields women had a codependency that forced young Brooke into an early maturity. Matt Donnelly, Variety, 21 Jan. 2023 The arrangement ultimately developed into a codependency so complete that today, the cells in your body would die without the mitochondria inside them. David Toomey, Discover Magazine, 27 Feb. 2013 Breaking a destructive codependency is so hard, sometimes others must strike the first severing blow for you. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 30 Dec. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'codependency.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1977, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of codependency was in 1977

Dictionary Entries Near codependency

Cite this Entry

“Codependency.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2023.

Medical Definition


co·​de·​pen·​den·​cy ˌkō-di-ˈpen-dən-sē How to pronounce codependency (audio)
variants or co-dependency also codependence or co-dependence
plural codependencies
: a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person manifesting low self-esteem and a strong desire for approval has an unhealthy attachment to another person and places the needs of that person before his or her own

Note: In codependency, a person tries to satisfy the needs of another who is often controlling or manipulative and who may have an addictive or emotionally unstable personality.

broadly : dependence on the needs of or control by another

More from Merriam-Webster on codependency

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