What is dependent personality disorder?

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is characterized by a need to be cared for by others. This condition results in submissive and clingy behavior, a fear of separation, and difficulty making decisions without reassurance from others.

DPD appears to occur equally among males and females, and usually first appears in early-to-middle adulthood.

What are the symptoms of dependent personality disorder?

Symptoms of dependent personality disorder include:

  • An inability to make common, everyday decisions without the reassurance of others
  • Avoidance of personal responsibility, including tasks requiring independent functioning
  • An intense fear of abandonment and a sense of devastation or helplessness when relationships end, and a tendency to quickly seek out and begin new relationships
  • Difficulty being alone
  • Avoidance of disagreement with others out of fear of losing support or approval
  • Willingness to tolerate mistreatment and abuse from others
  • Placing the needs of their caregivers above their own
  • Over-sensitivity to criticism
  • Pessimism and lack of self-confidence, including a belief that they are unable to care for themselves
  • Difficulty beginning projects

What causes dependent personality disorder?

Dependent personality disorder may be caused by a combination of biological and developmental factors. People exposed to authoritarian or overprotective parenting styles, chronic physical illness, or separation anxiety during childhood may be more likely to develop dependent personality traits.

How is dependent personality disorder treated?

A primary treatment goal for people with DPD symptoms is to increase their self-confidence and help them feel they have the ability to act independently of others, yet maintain close and meaningful relationships.

Behavioral health therapy is often the primary method of treatment for DPD. The goal is to help the person become more active and independent, and to learn to form healthy relationships.

Medication might be used to treat people dealing with DPD who also have symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.

What are the complications of dependent personality disorder?

People with DPD may experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, specific phobia(s), and substance abuse. They may remain in unhealthy and abusive relationships to avoid being alone.

What is the outlook for people with dependent personality disorder?

With treatment, many people with DPD can experience improvement in symptoms.

Can dependent personality disorder be prevented?

Although prevention of DPD might not be possible, treatment may allow a person who may be likely to develop this disorder to learn effective ways to deal with difficult situations.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 3/30/2017…#9783