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21.08.2018 | Original Article Open Access

The Lived Experience of Codependency: an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction
Ingrid Bacon, Elizabeth McKay, Frances Reynolds, Anne McIntyre


Codependency is a complex and debatable concept, which has been used over the years by mental health professionals to inform their practices. Researchers have attempted to identify the main problems associated with codependency; however, their evidence is still inconclusive. This is the first time that interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) has been used to explore the lived experience of codependency from the perspective of self-identified codependents. Eight participants recruited from local support groups for codependency in the UK, offered in-depth information about their subjective experiences, and embedded in their lifeworld. Data was gathered through interviews and a visual method. The shared experience of codependency was portrayed by the participants as a complex but tangible multidimensional psychosocial problem in their lives. It incorporated three interlinked experiences: a lack of clear sense of self, an enduring pattern of extreme, emotional, relational, and occupational imbalance, and an attribution of current problems in terms of parental abandonment and control in childhood.

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