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Codependency has been defined as an alcoholic family dynamic in which the alcoholic is married to a spouse who, despite him- or herself not being chemically dependent, serves as a helper in, and inadvertent contributor to, the maintenance of the alcoholic's problem drinking. The notion of codependency was predicated upon related concepts in family systems theory that have included family homeostasis, interlocking family pathology, over-adequate/inadequate marital functioning, the oneup/one-down marital relationship, the marital quid pro quo, and marital complementarity. The popularization of the term codependency among the general public through the self-help literature has had both positive and negative consequences for the practice of psychotherapy. On the one hand, the popular usage of the term has been helpful in raising public awareness regarding the complex interrelationships that transpire within alcoholic families. On the other hand, the widespread usage of the term often has resulted in misunderstanding and misuse of the concept by the general public, as well as some imprecision in its usage by mental health professionals. For example, psychologically healthy and normally nurturing behaviors on the part of a parent or spouse frequently may be misconstrued as pathologically codependent behavior when the complexity, functions, or ramifications of this concept are not fully understood. Finally, although codependent family dynamics were initially observed in chemically dependent families, they have also been observed clinically in families with other kinds of psychological and behavioral difficulties. Examples include families of military veterans suffering from war-related post-traumatic stress disorder and families with a member suffering from panic disorder and agoraphobia. Families in which a member exhibits psychological or behavioral problems are likely to be vulnerable to codependent family dynamics, as well.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsCodependency - Codependency And The Family System: Related Terms And Synonyms, Codependency: Popular Definition And Usage