Several of our Therapists that are seeing clients in person have now been vaccinated. In addition to offering in person appointments we are also seeing clients for online sessions via video call.
by Dr. Becky Spelman on 17/01/2021

What is Codependency

In a codependent relationship, one is generally reliant on another’s approval to an unhealthy degree for their sense of identity and self-worth. Rather than thinking about what they should do, and how they should behave, to maximise their own chances of happiness and fulfilment, they generally try to do what they think a significant person in their life—often a romantic partner or parent—would like them to do. In consequence, they often struggle with appropriate boundaries and can experience a profound sense of anxiety if they are separated from this person, or if they feel that they have angered or displeased them in some way. For some people they may develop love addiction due to the codependency issues.

Conversely, the other person (or people) in the relationship develop a strong identity around providing help, support, guidance, etc.—often to the detriment of the other, and even themselves.

In both cases, dysfunctional codependent behaviours frequently have their roots in the family dynamics of their families of origin.

Therapy for Codependency

In a clinical setting, therapists often work with patients who have problems around issues such as substance abuse, or an unhealthy relationship with food, that relate to a codependent relationship that they have with a person, or people, in their lives.

For example, a substance abuser with an addiction problem may find it very difficult to address this behaviour because they are in a relationship with someone else who abuses substances, and they want to make them happy by doing so too—or, conversely, because their loved one has developed an identity around “helping” them so much that they never have to confront what they are doing.

However, codependent relationships are also found in a wide range of circumstances that can present very differently. In general, one person in the relationship experiences the need to “help” the other, to the point of excluding them from all decision-making about themselves, while the other responds by presenting as passive and unable to function without this support. It can become very difficult for either of them to move beyond this situation, as their very identities have become inextricably bound to the concept of their being essential to the other’s basic well-being.

With help, most people in codependent relationships can learn how to recognise what they are doing, and to learn new, healthier behavioural patterns. Therapeutic approaches such as Psychodynamic Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, often alongside exercises to practice at home, and possibly in conjunction with attendance at a support group, can help people to create sustained change and to learn how to live in a more functional way.

If you would like to talk to someone about issues relating to codependency, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 3887 1738, book online or by email at:


Anderson, S.C. (1994). “A critical analysis of the concept of codependency”. Social Work. 39 (6): 677–685

Cermak M.D., Timmen L. (1986). “Diagnostic Criteria for Codependency”. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 18 (1): 15–20.

Morgan Jr., JP (1991). “What is codependency?”. J Clin Psychol. 47 (5): 720–9.

related articles

  • 19 Aug 2019

    7 Clear-Cut Signs Your Relationships Are Rooted in Co-Dependency

    Co-dependency is an emotional and behavioural condition that is often learned and passed down from one generation to the next. It's a dynamic that can take root in any form of relationship, from the romantic to companionships and friendships as well as being observed in caregiving situations......

  • 10 Jan 2021

    Addicted to Love: Overcoming the Trap of Co-Dependency

    Being addicted to love is a relatively unheard of term within the spectrum of addiction. In fact, it's not officially recognised in the DSM-5 as a recognised disorder. However, the world of mental health is such a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand......

  • 04 Mar 2021

    Steps to recovering from co-dependency

    Being co-dependent can often feel like a constant cycle of people pleasing and feeling responsible for everything and everyone around you. Although it may be difficult to battle this at first, breaking this cycle can be a big step into finding yourself and finally being able to attend to your own pe.....

  • 22 Dec 2019

    7 Eye-Opening Signs You're in a Co-Dependent Relationship

    A co-dependent relationship is a relationship dynamic in which two people are unable to function without the input of the other. You could view this as a state of unconditional love. But there is a difference......