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 This can look like signs of codependency, where other areas of your life receive little attention. Dominique Fluker, Essence, 21 May 2024 Like codependency really shows up in like the male relationships in my life. Esther Kang, Peoplemag, 21 May 2024 Obsessive love also fuels the potential for codependency, a dysfunctional relationship dynamic where one person relies almost exclusively on their partner for emotional support, validation and experiencing self-worth. Mark Travers, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 But that doesn’t mean that this won’t get real about codependency issues, the occasional disparity in maturity levels (Eden’s apartment looks like a collegiate bachelor pad, complete with jukebox and multiplex-level popcorn stand), and the way that the closest of people can still grow apart. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 10 Mar. 2024 And really embracing this idea of the codependency of technology and workforce. Fortune Editors, Fortune, 6 Mar. 2024 The codependency with — and resentment of — various yes-men. Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 2 Mar. 2024 Obsessive love can also lead to codependency, where one person relies heavily on their partner for emotional support and validation. Mark Travers, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 In subsequent years, codependency rhetoric moved from the addiction field into mainstream self-help culture. Elissa Strauss, The Atlantic, 25 Feb. 2024

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 22 Jun. 2024.

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

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