While all relationships require a certain amount of give and take, an unhealthy imbalance may be a sign of codependency. Codependency is characterized by an unhealthy or obsessive dependence on another person, or a willingness to sacrifice one’s own wants and needs to please another in order to feel loved or validated. Codependent relationships can exist in a range of circumstances but are common among families where stress or dysfunction — such as substance abuse disorders or trauma — are present.

People with codependency may demonstrate low self-esteem, obsessiveness, people-pleasing behaviors and difficulty setting boundaries. Understanding the prevalence of codependency can be an important step toward establishing healthy relationships and setting boundaries.