What is Dependent Personality Disorder?

9 Mar, 2022
What is Dependent Personality Disorder?

For people who struggle with continuous relationship conflicts with a loved one, the cause may have to do with personality disorders in the family. According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), personality disorders are ways of thinking and behaving that deviate from cultural expectations, cause social or problem-solving malfunctions, and last for a long time.

The medical community has identified over ten types of personality disorders. Among these, dependent personality disorder (DPD) refers to a behavioral pattern of being unable to take care of themselves or being clingy even in making daily decisions. People with DPD often feel anxious and helpless. They do not have self-confidence in independent living but rely heavily on family members for continued emotional or physical needs.

Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder

As stated above, people with DPD tend to avoid personal responsibility. There tends to be a fear of abandonment when relationships end. They are also hyper-sensitive to criticisms and tend to take them personally. While having trouble making day-to-day decisions, they live with a pessimistic outlook on life in general. These people have a vague sense of self-identity. This is why they are often not clear on interpersonal boundaries. They also find it challenging to be alone.

Health professionals need to formally make a DPD diagnosis based on a physical and behavioral exam. They will compare patients’ answers to factors listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The main diagnostic criteria include (1) an unrealistic fear of being abandoned, (2) anxious feelings when being alone, (3) inability to manage daily responsibilities by oneself, (4) finding it challenging to state one’s opinion, (5) a strong urge to get support from others all the time, (6) a strong need for reassurance from others, (7) lack of self-confidence in making decisions, and (8) an urge to seek a new relationship for approval immediately after a close relationship ends.

Problems that Dependent Personality Disorder Can Cause

Dependent personality disorder can definitely put a strain on relationships. Because people with DPD always need approval or reassurance, this can frustrate their loved ones. This can be especially hard in dating relationships or marriages. The person’s response is always by clinging even tighter, which often drives people further away.

The constant stress of relationship conflicts and a sense of social isolation may cause people with DPD to resort to using alcohol or drugs to cope. Substance addiction can complicate this disorder, creating more co-occurring mental health problems such as anxiety attacks and compulsive behaviors.

Common Causes of Dependent Personality Disorder

Like most mental health problems, a dependent personality disorder can be caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, social environment, and personal development. But in general, people who have suffered childhood trauma and abusive relationships tend to have a higher risk of a DPD diagnosis. These experiences tend to erode one’s self-confidence and increase self-doubt.

Authoritarian parenting also tends to breed children with dependent personality disorders. Individuals raised in family environments that emphasize authority tend to have weaker personal opinions when making decisions. Children raised by authoritarian parents can become socially inept and cannot make their own decisions. They are trained to always seek approval before thinking for themselves independently.

Treating Dependent Personality Disorder

People with DPD need to work with mental health professionals to manage these symptoms. Traditional psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can help them improve the self-awareness of the problem and possible causes. If a person’s DPD causes intense anxiety, health professionals can also prescribe medications such as fluoxetine and alprazolam. Other common medications for treating DPD include mood stabilizers, neuroleptics, and anti-anxiety medicine.

Someone with DPD can improve and live an emotionally healthy life if they receive proper treatment. Positive relationships that one re-learns about boundaries and agency can help them build self-confidence. For many people who struggle with DPD who have experienced trauma, they need to seek a trauma-informed approach.

A team approach is often needed to make sure that people with DPD have their psychiatric, medical, and social needs met. Like most personality disorders, it may take months or even years for people with DPD to heal with appropriate treatment. In some cases, they need to be admitted to the hospital for a higher level of psychiatric care. People with mild symptoms of DPD may only need treatment from a psychiatrist or a therapist. One should find a mental health professional with relevant experiences.

If your loved one has a dependent personality disorder, you should learn more about this condition by working with a mental health professional who can help you build boundaries in this relationship. Caring for a person with DPD can be emotionally draining. You should also learn how to practice self-care.

If your loved one has a dependent personality disorder, you should learn more about this condition by working with a mental health professional who can help you build boundaries in this relationship. Caring for a person with DPD can be emotionally draining. You should also learn how to practice self-care. You also need a strong support group that can walk alongside you. At Sober Life Recovery, we care for clients’ bodies and minds. Our trained recovery experts and mental health specialists value a holistic approach. We also have a strong peer support group and alumni program. Experienced in family-based intervention, we know how to best support you so that you can provide better care for your loved one. You do not look further than Sober Life Recovery. We have all kinds of programs you need, including treatment and aftercare for clients with dependent personality disorder. Do not delay treatment for your loved one. Call us today at (619) 542-9542.

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