Going over the line with relying on others: Dependent personality disorder

Dependent personality disorder(DPD) is characterized by a pattern of submissive and clinging behaviors for an excessive need to be taken care of, leading to fears of separation. Typically DPD begins in early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts, including other symptoms shared with other mental and personality disorders.

Characteristics of DPD
Like many other mental health disorders, DPD shares a variety of overlying symptoms with other disorders. Comorbidity with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is highly prevalent in people with DPD (Loranger 2014). DPD may also be associated with other conditions including depression, anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Typical symptoms of clinginess, attention seeking, hypersensitivity to criticism and strong needs for other people’s approval and reassurance of their actions and opinions are some of the overlapping symptoms shared with DPD.

People with DPD will typically feel the need to be surrounded by people, even if they’re not engaging in the conversation or adding to the particular event at the time. An unhealthy desperation to be accepted and approved drives them to their overly dependent actions.

The cause of DPD is unknown; however, it is believed that there are multiple facets involved in underlying reasons for the disorder that are very similar to codependency. The underlying fear of abandonment in people with DPD usually stems from either severe neglect as a child or having overprotective parents. When a person is raised without the love, acceptance and guidance of a mother and hasn’t been taught how to make responsible decisions, it can result in the need to have another person, either friends or a spouse, substitute the role of the caretaker that was absent during childhood. Studies show that physical, emotional or sexual abuse is prevalent among people with DPD (NIMH2014).

Symptoms of DPD

There are several symptoms a person with DPD may exhibit. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5-th Edition, to be diagnosed they would need to exhibit at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Irrational fears
  • Phobias of abandonment
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Strong fear of rejection
  • Perceiving oneself as powerless
  • Need for somebody else to make their decisions

Psychotherapy treatment for DPD
Short-term cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the ideal form of psychotherapeutic treatment for DPD, based on its known reputation for valuable skill-sets able to be learned in a short amount of time.

CBT teaches a person with DPD that the false beliefs he or she holds in regards to his or her inability to care for himself or herself, make sound decisions or be successfully independent are invalid belief systems based on being raised to believe that he or she was incapable of being an independent person.

If you or someone you care about is currently battling a dependent personality disorder and would like more information on how to seek therapy for the condition, call the Mental Health Helpline at 855-653-8178 today.