What is dependent personality disorder (DPD)?

Mental health experts describe personality as a person’s way of thinking, feeling and behaving. A personality disorder affects the way people think or act, making them behave differently over time.

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is one of 10 types of personality disorders. Other types include antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder. Dependent personality disorder usually starts during childhood or by the age of 29.

People with DPD have an overwhelming need to have others take care of them. Often, a person with DPD relies on people close to them for their emotional or physical needs. Others may describe them as needy or clingy.

People with DPD may believe they can’t take care of themselves. They may have trouble making everyday decisions, such as what to wear, without others’ reassurance.

Statistics show that roughly 10% of adults have a personality disorder. Less than 1% of adults meet the criteria for DPD. More women than men tend to have DPD.

What causes dependent personality disorder (DPD)?

Mental health experts haven’t figured out what causes DPD. They believe it results from a mix of genetics, environment and development. Experts have found DPD is more likely in people with particular life experiences, including:

  • Abusive relationships: People who have a history of abusive relationships have a higher risk of a DPD diagnosis.
  • Childhood trauma: Children who have experienced child abuse (including verbal abuse) or neglect may develop DPD. It may also affect people who experienced a life-threatening illness during childhood.
  • Family history: Someone with a family member who has DPD or another anxiety disorder may be more likely to have a DPD diagnosis.
  • Certain cultural and religious or family behaviors: Some people may develop DPD due to cultural or religious practices that emphasize reliance on authority. But passivity or politeness alone is not a sign of DPD.

What are the symptoms of dependent personality disorder (DPD)?

Someone with dependent personality disorder may have several symptoms, including:

  • Avoidance of personal responsibility.
  • Difficulty being alone.
  • Fear of abandonment and a sense of helplessness when relationships end.
  • Oversensitivity to criticism.
  • Pessimism and lack of self-confidence.
  • Trouble making everyday decisions.

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