Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is one of a cluster of personality disorders. Individuals with dependent personality disorder have an excessive need to be taken care of; it often manifests as ‘clinging’ behavior, or a fear of separation.

People with dependent personality disorder strongly doubt their own abilities and skills and cultivate an air of helplessness. Their fear of abandonment is strong, and someone with dependent personality disorder may lie about their ability to perform certain tasks in order to get one of their valued people to do it for them. This creates the idea that they cannot do that task without the other person, preventing the other person from leaving them.

Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent personality disorder shares some symptoms with other personality disorders, but also has a few unique characteristics that define it. If you notice these behaviors in yourself or someone that you love, you should tell your doctor - there are evaluations that your doctor can perform to figure out if you have dependent personality disorder and get you the help that you need. Symptoms of dependent personality disorder include:

  • Difficulty making decisions without the input or presence of others
  • Being overly passive or submissive 
  • An inability to disagree with or argue with others
  • Allowing or preferring other people to handle your personal business
  • Extreme fear of abandonment, especially by loved ones
  • Intense sadness and lethargy when a loved one leaves or after a breakup
  • A willingness to do anything in your power, including putting up with abuse or mistreatment or doing dangerous or illegal things, to please a valued person or keep them near you
  • Having trouble starting projects or doing things alone
  • Constantly seeking relationships and cultivating them in order to not be alone, no matter how unhealthy the relationship may be

Causes and Risk Factors for Dependent Personality Disorder

While there are no direct or specific causes of dependent personality disorder, some conditions and circumstances can make a person's  likelihood of developing the disorder higher. These include:

  • Traumatic abandonment in childhood through family circumstances or war
  • A family history of personality disorders, depression, or anxiety
  • Surviving childhood abuse, including stifling parenting, withdrawn parenting, or having parents who punished individual thinking
  • Having a chronic physical illness in childhood

Treatment for Dependent Personality Disorder

You and your doctor can come up with a treatment plan that can help you be more in control of your disorder using medication, therapy, and other tools. 

Medication: No medication is approved to treat dependent personality disorder directly, but some medications like anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers can help control the symptoms. 

Therapy: Psychotherapy is often the first line of treatment in helping you gain control over your dependent personality disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other types of psychodynamic therapy can help you learn new behaviors. Find the right care option for you at Sheppard Pratt.

Education: Learning more about dependent personality disorder, personality disorders, and other mental health conditions can help you and your loved ones understand more about the support that you need to thrive. Learn more about mental health through our Knowledge Center.

Support: Having adequate support can help you feel better about your condition and other conditions that may contribute to your dependent personality disorder. See the support groups available at Sheppard Pratt.