Co-dependency is the dysfunctional relationship between family members that results in enabling or supporting another person’s bad habits such as addiction, immaturity or irresponsibility. It is a type of toxic behavior which can be harmful in many ways. The term of co-dependency has been around for almost 40 years now. It was originally coined in the alcoholics anonymous groups where they felt that addiction was not just the addict’s problem, but the problem of the entire family. The spouse or family members of alcoholics were initially known as co-alcoholics.

Researches showed that the characteristics of co-dependency were very common in individuals raised by sick parents or dysfunctional families. In other words, co-dependency means the complete inability to function without a second person and the individual’s thoughts, actions and behaviors circle around that person alone.


Samreen-Masud-120x150Ms. Samreen Masud is currently serving as a Clinical Psychologist at Willing Ways Lahore. She has done her M.Phil in Clinical Psychology from Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore and her BSc. Hons.in Applied Psychology from Kinnaird College as well. She has had the experience of working as an intern at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center. There she became expert in counseling and relaxation techniques working with cancer patients both adults and children.

Editor: Saad Shaheed


In order to understand what type of people can be identified as co-dependent, here’s a list of symptoms that can be very often seen in such individuals. Note that it is not necessary for one person to have them all to qualify as co-dependent.

  1. Low Self-Esteem:
    Self esteem is one’s own personal judgment of self or evaluation of self worth. Usually people with low self esteem tend to have a habit of comparing themselves to others and feel that they are not good enough. Sometimes people with low self esteem usually come off as arrogant or snob and might think very highly of themselves, but deep down underneath they usually have feelings of being incapable and insufficient. Feelings of shame are heavily buried deep inside these individuals.Features-of-Codependency-1
  2. Inadequate Boundaries:
    Having set boundaries and maintaining them is an issue with co-dependent people. Boundaries are lines drawn to differentiate between properties, belongings, money, body and many other physical things. These lines are not only applicable to physically present objects but these boundaries also give individuals freedom of having their own thoughts, opinions and feelings. Co-dependent people have fragile and hazy boundaries. These individuals usually indulge in self blame and taking upon themselves the responsibility of other’s problems and feelings. Some co-dependent people also have very firm boundaries which make it difficult for other people to get close or open up to them.