A codependent person has been defined as someone who is obsessed with controlling the person who is out of control (Beattie, 1987; Weinhold & Weinhold, 1989). This is essentially an extension of the disease concept of addiction, from an individual focus outwards to that of intra-personal problems affecting family members (Haakan, 1990, cited in Hands, 1996, p 32):
- Codependents, adult children of alcoholics, and children of alcoholics are some of the names given to these suffering persons
- They have learned to live in a chemically dependent world, and developed maladaptive skills in response to this. They learn to never ask for what they want, and to keep secrets. They focus their lives totally on the chemical dependent persons. They do not have time for themselves or their own needs
- Co-dependents are as blinded and reality distorted as are chemically dependent persons. They do not think about their own problems as their own problems are too painful. Their whole lives revolve around the sick person. Co-dependents become so obsessed with helping and controlling the other persons that they lose the ability to think. Over time they develop an incredible tolerance for neglect and abuse. They keep thinking that if they just do enough – then everything will work out
- This co-dependency often permits the family to focus on the addict rather than addressing underlying familial dysfunction.