co·​de·​pen·​den·​cy | \ ˌkō-di-ˈpen-dən(t)-sē How to pronounce codependency (audio) \

Definition of codependency

: 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 Naturalists, chemists, and botanists started to understand the codependency of trees and humanity. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 19 Mar. 2022 After a decade of codependency, flatmates Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) grow apart when the former starts dating a pianist (Fra Fee). Radhika Seth, Vogue, 12 Feb. 2022 But codependency is not a clinical diagnosis, and has been defined in many different ways. Sara Kuburic, USA TODAY, 9 Feb. 2022 One of the key programs is Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), but any -anon group addresses codependency (e.g., Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics). Annie Lane, oregonlive, 4 Apr. 2021 Maybe if one of them was even slightly toxic or manipulative or had an attachment disorder, this intense codependency thing would feel a lot more compelling. Kyndall Cunningham, Vulture, 8 Dec. 2021 Someone really needs to chat with her about her codependency on her 13-year-old babysitter. Maggie Fremont, Vulture, 11 Oct. 2021 Chloroplasts were, millions of years ago, free-living bacteria that were ultimately engulfed by bigger cells; in exchange for room and board, the microbes pumped out energy for their hosts, forging what became a permanent codependency. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 28 Sep. 2021 People with poor boundaries usually have a high level of neediness (or in psych terms, codependency) and tend to struggle with the thought of rejection or being disliked. Stina Sanders,, 21 July 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'codependency.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of codependency

1977, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of codependency was in 1977

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Last Updated

5 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Codependency.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for codependency


co·​de·​pen·​den·​cy | \ ˌkō-di-ˈpen-dən-sē How to pronounce codependency (audio) \
variants: or co-dependency also codependence or co-dependence \ -​dən(t)s How to pronounce codependency (audio) \
plural codependencies

Medical Definition of codependency

: 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 Encyclopedia article about codependency


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