What is Dependent Personality Disorder?
Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is characterized by pervasive dependence on others for everyday tasks and decision-making. Individuals with DPD are plagued with feelings of helplessness and submissiveness and have a high need for external validation. Individuals with this disorder often experience anxiety and negative emotions when alone and become emotionally overdependent on others.
Women Are More Prone to Dependent Personality Disorder
Studies have found that women are more prone to develop Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) than men are. According to the National Library of Medicine, dependent traits were associated with higher femininity and lower masculinity. Emotional dependence could represent an exaggerated version of traditional feminine behaviors. Furthermore, research has shown that Dependent Personality Disorder occurs more often in females.
Signs and Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder
People presenting with Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) tend to exhibit some of the following symptoms.
- Inability to make decisions
- Difficulty being alone
- Avoidance of responsibilities
- Learned helplessness
- Intense fear of abandonment
- Intense devastation when relationships end
- Oversensitivity to criticism
- Low self-confidence
- Perceived inability to take care of oneself
- People-pleasing tendencies, like avoiding conflict
- Inability or unwillingness to take on new endeavors
- Willingness to tolerate mistreatment or abuse from others
- Naiveness and fantasizing
Causes of Dependent Personality Disorder
There is no identified cause of Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD). It likely involves a combination of genetic/biological and environmental factors. Studies have found that growing up with one or more parents with an authoritarian parenting style can make one more susceptible to the development of dependent personality disorder; One of the hypotheses being that this type of parenting is characterized by strict rules and expectations, resulting in the development of dependent personality traits.
Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) may benefit from a variety of treatment modalities that include therapy and psychopharmacological interventions:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has proven to be an effective treatment of Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD), intending to help an individual become more independent and learn to form healthy relationships. This form of psychotherapy often entails short-term therapy with specific goals that focus on managing negative behaviors and improving functioning.
Assertiveness therapy & training:
An intervention used in treatment to help develop self-confidence and leadership/decision making skills.
Although medication does not treat the core behavioral problems of personality disorders, it can alleviate negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety and depression. Some common examples of medications used include Prozac or Xanax.
Frequently Ask Questions
Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) can seek treatment from a mental health provider. In therapy, the individual can learn coping mechanism to deal with emotionally distressing situations. In the absence of treatment, individuals may be at risk for negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.
While Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) can manifest differently in different people, the following traits have been observed to be more common among individuals with DPD:
- Difficulty making everyday decisions without advice and reassurance
- A need for others to assume responsibility for things
- Have people-pleasing qualities and fear of disagreement
- Struggle to start projects or do things on their own
- Anxiety or stress when alone and avoidance of being alone
- Self-blame for conflicts
- Feel as if they must meet others’ expectations
- High need for validation and approval
- Trouble creating and maintaining boundaries
There are several ways to manage one’s dependence on other people. As mentioned, psychotherapy or cognitive behavior therapy can help individuals work through difficult situations and teach individuals new ways to handle them. In therapy, individuals learn to build confidence, agency, and self-reliance. Medication may also aid in managing negative emotions associated with Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) such as anxiety or depression.
The information on this page, or elsewhere on this site, is not intended to take the place of diagnosis, treatment or informed advice from a qualified mental health professional. You should not take or avoid any action without consultation with the latter.
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Dependent personality disorder: Definition, symptoms, treatment. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved on 4/2/2022: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9783-dependent-personality-disorder
Jantz, G. (2016, January 5). 9 things dependent people do. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201601/9-things-dependent-people-do
Klonsky, D., Jane, S., Turkheimer, E., & Oltmanns, T. (2002, October). Gender role and personality disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 16(5), 464-476. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4364134/
Bhandari, S. (2021, September 14). Dependent personality disorder. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/dependent-personality-disorder