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Dependent Personality Disorder: Definition and Treatment

Tied Hands representing dependent personality disorderWhat is Dependent Personality Disorder?

Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is a disorder characterised by a pervasive and excessive psychological dependence on other people. This means that people with dependent personality disorder depend on others to meet both their emotional and physical needs and have a self-perception of being unable to function without the assistance of others. They see other people as much more capable to shoulder life’s responsibilities, and to deal with the complexities of life Other people seem powerful, competent, and capable of providing a sense of security and support. Dependent individuals avoid situations that require them to make decisions, or accept responsibility for themselves; they look to others to take the lead and give continuous support. dependent personality disorder judgment of others is distorted by their inclination to see others as they wish they were, and not as they are. Individuals with dependent personality disorder view strong caretakers, in particular, in an idealized way; they believe they will be all right as long as the strong figure upon whom they depend is accessible. When a close relationship ends people with dependent personality disorder may urgently seek another relationship to give the care and support they need. Individuals with dependent personality disorder fear rejection and lack self-confidence, they also fear separation and constantly try to cope with their anxiety of abandonment. Being alone leaves the sufferer feeling helpless and uncomfortable. Being with anyone is considered better than being alone. When a relationship ends, the person is devastated.

Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder

  • Difficulty making everyday decisions
  • Constantly needs to be in a relationship
  • Need for excessive reassurance and advice
  • Difficulty expressing disagreement
  • Avoid being alone
  • Avoid responsibility
  • Easily hurt by criticism
  • Fears abandonment
  • Helplessness
  • Difficulty initiating projects
  • Need to please others

Causes of Dependent Personality Disorder

A variety of factors are thought to lead to the development of dependent personality disorder, although no specific cause has been highlighted. Most research points to a combination of biological, social and psychological causes.

Treatment for Dependent Personality Disorder

There is no specific treatment for this disorder; however psychotherapy is usually the choice of treatment for those suffering with dependent personality disorder. Individuals are likely to seek treatment when complications in their life become too much for them to handle. Medications should only be prescribed for specific problems.

There is little evidence to suggest that the use of medication will result in long-term benefits in the personality functioning of people with dependent personality disorder. DPD is one of the most vulnerable personality disorders to dysphoria and some individuals with DPD respond well to antidepressant medications. Goals for all personality disorders include: preventing further deterioration, regaining an adaptive equilibrium, alleviating symptoms, restoring lost skills, and fostering improved adaptive capacity. Goals may not necessarily include restructuring character. The focus of treatment is adaptation, i.e., how individuals respond to the environment. Treatment interventions teach more adaptive methods of managing distress, improving interpersonal effectiveness, and building skills for affective regulation.

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Goals for Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder

For individuals with DPD, the goal of treatment is not independence but autonomy. Autonomy has been defined as the capacity for independence and the ability to develop intimate relationships. Sperry suggests that the basic goal for dependent personality disorder treatment is self-efficacy. Individuals with DPD must recognize their dependent patterns and the high price they pay to keep up those patterns. This allows them to explore alternatives. The long-range goal is to increase individuals’ sense of independence and ability to function. Clients with dependent personality disorder must build strength and not foster neediness. As with other personality disorders, treatment goals should not be in contradiction to the basic personality and temperament of these individuals. They can work toward a more functional version of those characteristics that are intrinsic to their style.

If after reading this, you feel you may have dependent personality disorder, you may want to talk to someone who is medically qualified such as a psychiatrist or your GP.


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Blog Topics: Personality Disorders

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