Codependency is a term that is often thrown around these days very liberally. Codependency can mean a lot of different things to people and even to therapists. The truth is that codependency is not a diagnosable disorder. It is not currently in the DSM-IV-TR.
Anxious Attachment Style
I will talk about the characteristics and behaviors of codependency, but what I feel is really going on is a problem with your attachment style. An anxious attachment style is one that is commonly coined as codependent. People who have an anxious attachment style may feel as though they'd really love to get close to someone, but they worry that that person may not want to get close to them. An anxious attachment style also makes you feel like you are not good enough and that you'll never measure up. A critical voice is created that tends to be the loudest in your mind. Since the critical voice is so dominant and overpowering, a high level of closeness and intimacy is often desired. This high level of intimacy never seems to be reached, leaving you unsatisfied, and this only makes you feel more critical of yourself. Valuing intimacy so highly causes one to be dependent on their partner. If you'd like to learn more about attachment styles read this blog post I wrote.
Symptoms of codependency
If you are feeling codependent or think that you may have an anxious attachment style, then you may have some trouble getting in touch with what you are feeling, because you may be overly wrapped up and concerned with how your partner is feeling. You may not realize that your partner is unavailable, or that he or she is to blame instead of yourself. Low self-esteem and self-worth are common symptoms of codependency. It can often be very difficult to make decisions on your own without worrying about how your partner will react to the choice. Many times codependency can get in the way of your needs getting met. It becomes increasingly difficult to get in contact with your inner map and what you truly want to do instead of focusing on your partner's map that is outside of yourself. Finding a sense of safety inside of yourself can be difficult to do on your own. One of the most common symptoms of codependency is feeling unsafe when you are not with your partner. Safety typically comes from being with your partner and knowing that he or she is happy and experiencing positive feelings about you.
Treatment for codependency
Therapy can be very helpful if you are feeling codependent on your partner. Treatment for codependency tends to focus on how to get in touch with what you really want and how to practice staying in line with your internal map. Treatment is meant to empower the client to debate all the critical narratives that come up. A counter voice that is healthy and independent is formed and provided to you by the therapist, and then molded into your own personal voice. Therapy for people with an anxious attachment style can take up to a year or two to fully work. You must be reprogrammed, and new healthy neural pathways must form in order to change your attachment style. You should be prepared to spend a good amount of time treating codependency.