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CoDA: Co-Dependents Anonymous

Updated on August 27, 2014

CoDA or Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Twelve Step program for men and women recovering from codependence who desire healthy relationships. By participating in meetings and recovery activities, members learn to develop and maintain healthy relationships. They learn to recognize co-dependent patterns and how to change these patterns.

The concept of co-dependency or co-dependence emerged from studies that were done on families of alcoholics. The family members often focused their attention on the person with the alcohol problem, in a way that was obsessive and compulsive. The co-alcoholic or co-dependent was addicted to the addict! Similar patterns have been noticed in families where a member has a chronic physical or mental illness, in families where physical or emotional abuse occurs, and in families that are under a great deal of chronic stress.

In these families a lot of attention and energy is focused on the person who is ill or addicted. The co-dependent person sacrifices his or her own needs in order to care for the member who is ill. Children’s needs are often not met, and children are often required to fulfill adult responsibilities. Co-dependent behaviors are observed and learned in families, accepted as normal and passed on for generations.

Co-dependent behaviors can be found in families, churches, the work place, community organizations, friendships and intimate relationships. A person with co-dependent behaviors has difficulty developing and maintaining healthy relationships because he or she learned unhealthy relationship behaviors that were often one-sided and sometimes abusive.

There is some controversy about whether or not co-dependency is truly a distinct condition. It is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), where all mental disorders are classified. Some say co-dependency is addressed as a dependent personality disorder or passive dependent personality disorder in the DSM. Others argue that co-dependent behaviors are normal, caring behaviors taken to extreme and are not necessarily a pathology or disorder. Whether it is officially classified or not, some characteristic patterns of behavior have been identified and CoDA groups offer support for people who are interested in developing healthy relationship behaviors.

The CoDA website has tools that can be used to help a person recognize co-dependent patterns and characteristics, and corresponding recovery patterns that a person moves toward in their recovery from co-dependence. There are four essential patterns: denial, self esteem, compliance, control, and avoidance patterns.

A person with a predominant denial pattern may have difficulty identifying feelings or have a pattern of denying feelings. As this individual makes progress in recovery, he or she is able to readily identify feelings and respond appropriately to them.

Another person may have a control pattern where they believe others are incapable of taking care of themselves, and need to be in relationships where they are “needed.” This person is likely to tell others what they should think and feel, and offers unsolicited advise to others. As this person recovers, he or she recognizes that others are capable of meeting their own needs, and learns to only offer advise when asked.

The CoDA website can be used to find a meeting, purchase recovery books and literature, find out about recovery events and news, or review the 12 steps, 12 traditions and 12 promises of CoDA. For example, the 2011 CoDA Conference is in Las Vegas in October and the 2011 International CoDA convention was in Denver in July. CoDA is currently looking for a webhost, and is inviting members to submit articles to share about coping with a loss, to be used for future publications. The website also has information about starting a new CoDA group, how meetings are structured, and guidelines for how to share and listen effectively in groups. Below are links to the CoDA website and to some popular links on the site.

The CoDA Closing Prayer

We thank our Higher Power

For all that we have received from the meeting.

As we close, may we take with us

the wisdom, love, acceptance, and hope of recovery.


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    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Hi Denise. Thanks for coming back to comment:) I just wrote a lengthy response and deleted it by mistake! I was almost finished. Maybe I'll re-write it as a hub!

      The gist of it was that the idea of co-dependency is not in the DSM which is the Bible of mental health diagnosis and treatment. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is in the DSM, but the ideas of inverted, malignant, overt and covert narcissism are not; even though there are a lot of books and articles written about them.

      Some of the symptoms of Narcissistic PD or NPD are grandiosity (which is really inferiority and insecurity), lack of empathy, sense of entitlement, strong needs for control and admiration, exploits or takes advantage of others, arrogant, etc.

      Some of the characteristics of co-dependence include some of the symptoms of NPD. If you click the link above under "New Patterns of Codependence," you'll find lack of empathy, perceive self as superior, recognition seeking, etc.

      There are also some symptoms of borderline personality, dependent, and antisocial personalities. That was the other point. We have to be careful about assigning labels on people, because it is harmful to do so. Any of us can have one or two characteristics of a personality disorder and not meet the strict diagnostic criteria required for the diagnosis of personality disorder. We often hear, "She's such a borderline" when a person is really having symptoms of PMS and doesn't want a lot of social interaction today while she did yesterday!

      One final point was that I can create a concept of different types of borderline personality; say, active, dormant and fragile, and write a best selling book about it (I wish!). People will buy my book because they recognize these their neighbor or co-worker, but not themselves. People start talking about the fragile borderline and blogging about it, and before you know it I've created a mass belief in a concept that hasn't been sufficiently researched and studied and confirmed to in fact be a condition. Nevertheless, everyone believes it and is beginning to recovery from it!

      The point I was making with sparkster is that co-dependent characteristics can be associated with abuse from an NPD or any other kind of abuse, or even the stress of growing up in a family with the demands of a special needs child or some other stressor; such as poverty. Sparkster believes co-dependence is a disorder in its own right and is the same as NPD. I don't necessarily agree for the reasons mentioned, but I can see where a person might believe that.

      As mentioned in the hub, "There is controversy about whether or not co-dependency is truly a distinct condition. Sparkster believes it is. Happyboomernurse expressed that she agrees with the idea that they are caring behaviors taken to extreme. I believe that even though it is not in the DSM as a psychiatric disorder or condition, co-dependency is a very useful concept for understanding relationship behaviors that can contribute to abuse and very unhealthy relationships. If I have patterns of low self esteem and denial, I am very likely to get in a relationship with an NPD. I can identify and correct my own relationship behaviors so that I can have relationships with people who are healthier. So, even though it's not a formally recognized disorder, it is very helpful for learning healthy relationship behaviors in my opinion. It can also be used in an unhealthy way if a person tends to find fault with him/herself, feel bad about it but do nothing constructive to change or get better!

      I hope that is more clear, Denise. Sorry to be so long winded about it.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      sparkster is right about some forms of co-dependency being inverted narcissism. There is reference to this in many of the books about narcissism.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Hi sparkster. Thanks. Codependency can be learned in a family with a parent who has narcissistic personality traits, and can be learned in any family where there is a history of stress. The best news, I think, is that behaviors can learned, unlearned and re-learned! A person can recover from codependency and learn new and healthier relationship skills and behaviors. Thanks for making the connection with NPD, sparkster, and for sharing your comments here.

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Publishing 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great hub, raises some interesting points. I think for the most part co-dependency is a result of abuse due to NPD, etc. However, it is possible for co-dependency to be a disorder within itself which I believe is referred to as inverted (malignant) narcissism.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Good point billyaustindillon. Leaving a co-dependent relationship can be lethal! A lot of the drama on the news has to do with co-dependent relationship beliefs and behaviors. Thanks for the insightful comment.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 6 years ago

      Kim an excellent analysis of a behavior that is misunderstood and can lead to unhealthy outcomes when unchecked. Particularly in relationship breakdowns, moves or simply outgrowing individuals or groups.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Thank you so much skye2day. I am so glad you're finding your way back to you:) Relationship issues are such a big trigger in recovery - and CoDA has a lot to offer. It means a lot to me that you have found this hub helpful. GBY.

    • skye2day profile image

      skye2day 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      kin039 Everyone has a bit of coda inside. Well I will speak for me. I have a bit of coda in me. I am in recovery and recently I had to look at my codependent nature or suffer. I surrendered and I thank GOD I am working on it. Always a works in progress hey?? Very Good hub. Informative organized and easy to follow. I checked out a few links. Great job kim. You keep on girl you have much to give to others. I have bookmarked linked out and voted up awesome. I am Blessed I needed this page. No mistakes in Gods world I was led. Awesome stuff. Love n Hugs.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Thanks Denise. I think it's important for people to know about these groups. They're free and can be a big help in a time of need.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Very important information. Thanks for sharing. Rated interesting and useful. :)

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      I like systems theory and think our systems (schools, health care, government, family, work, etc) would be so much healthier and more productive if "co-dependent" behaviors were not rewarded but recognized as unhealthy. The whole premise of CoDA though is that we are ultimately powerless over others and are better off when we take responsibility for ourselves. Thanks for commenting and weighing in, and as always thanks for your support, happyboomernurse.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      Very informative hub with some great resources.

      My personal belief is that co-dependent behaviors are normal, caring behaviors taken to extreme and are not necessarily a pathology or disorder, but I believe that CoDA groups can be very beneficial in helping people with CoDA characteristics develop healthier relationship behaviors.


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