Codependency can be defined as a pattern of behaviour in which one person’s self-esteem and self-worth is dependent on the approval of another person. The codependent feels worthless unless they’re making sacrifices for their enabler, and the enabler gets satisfaction from having their every need met. It’s a dysfunctional relationship of enmeshment built on manipulation, control, and fear.
Research suggests that codependency typically develops in childhood as a response to neglect or emotional and physical abuse by a parent or caretaker. The child learns that their needs are unimportant; that to remain quiet avoids conflicts; and that by sacrificing their own needs they will win approval and love.