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Pathological Altruism$
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Barbara Oakley, Ariel Knafo, Guruprasad Madhavan, and David Sloan Wilson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738571

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738571.001.0001

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Codependency and Pathological Altruism

Codependency and Pathological Altruism

Chapter 4 Codependency and Pathological Altruism
Pathological Altruism

Michael McGrath

Barbara Oakley

Oxford University Press

Pathological altruism is a construct describing the willingness of an individual to place the needs of others above him- or herself to the point of causing harm, whether physical, psychological, or both, to the purported altruist. Codependency can be viewed as a form of pathological altruism. The study of codependency has been hampered by limited agreement as to what it is, whether it even exists, and a lack of validated psychometric instruments to study it. This chapter suggests codependency is best viewed as a behavior and not a diagnosis, facilitated by the inability to tolerate negative affect. This chapter will review the concept of codependency, comment on its roots in empathy and altruism, explore its potential neurobiological, genetic, and evolutionary basis, and make suggestions for future research.

Keywords:   codependency, evolutionary, negative affect, neurobiological, pathological altruism

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