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Dependent Personality Disorder

Patients with a Dependent Personality disorder routinely relinquish major decisions to others and allow the needs of those they depend on to outweigh their needs. They have low self-esteem and confidence and feel insecure about their ability to take care of themselves. They often say they are incapable of making decisions. This is partly because they believe that others are more competent, and partly because they are hesitant to give an opinion because they might offend the people whose support they think they need to survive. Sometimes patients who suffer from prolonged illnesses or health problems will develop a dependent personality. Patients with Dependent Personality Disorder require a lot of reassurance and advice and they are hurt by criticism. They feel helpless when they are alone, and they will rarely do things independently. These patients can be devastated when a relationship ends, and they will often remain in abusive relationships. Dependent Personality Disorder usually begins in the early adult years. While the cause of this disorder is not specifically known, those with a history of verbal, physical or sexual abuse as children, and those with a family history of schizophrenia or personality disorders may be at greater risk.

What are the symptoms?

  • Has suicidal thoughts if she is rejected
  • Feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone
  • Intense fear of being alone
  • Excessive dependence on others to meet physical and emotional needs
  • Attempts to obtain nurturing and support from others to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant
  • Asks others to assume responsibility for most major areas of life
  • Easily hurt by criticism or disapproval
  • Is very submissive
  • Tolerates poor or abusive treatment in order to stay in relationships
  • Will not voice opinions or initiate activities
  • Needs to start a new relationship as soon as one has ended
  • Can’t make everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others
  • Has difficulty disagreeing with others, fear of loss of support or approval
  • Very passive in relating to other people

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Doctors will perform routine physical examinations to rule out other health risks, illnesses and physical and mental disorders. To diagnose a patient with Dependent Personality Disorder, the doctor will look for at least five of the following signs, usually beginning in the early adult years.

  • Cannot make decisions without a lot of help and reassurance
  • Cannot express opinions or disagree with others
  • Is afraid to be alone and fears she will be unable to take care of herself
  • Needs others to assume responsibility for major areas of life like family, work and social activities
  • Has trouble starting projects or doing things on her own
  • Must be in a relationship at all times, seeking a new partner as soon as an old relationship ends
  • Use of health complaints to get attention and support

Treatment will vary for every patient, depending on the symptoms, and whether there are coexisting physical or mental disorders. Treatment(s) can include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Group and Family Therapy
  • Medication as appropriate for associated disorders or conditions (antidepressants or anti-anxiety)

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About 1 in 7 American adults (14.8% or 20.8 million people) has at least one personality disorder. Many have more than one disorder.

Dependent Personality disorder affects less than 1% of all American adults.

Dependent Personality Disorder patients represent 1 million American adults (0.5% of the adult population)

More women than men suffer from this disorder. Native American and Black patients outnumber other ethnic groups. The disorder is more common among divorced, separated, widowed or unmarried individuals.

If you are in a crisis please call:
1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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