Can Dependent Personality Disorder Be Prevented?

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Can Dependent Personality Disorder Be Prevented?

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a disorder that causes a person to be depend-ent on others. A person with DPD often has an intense fear of abandonment.

Dependent personality disorder causes a person to be ‘clingy’ or ‘needy’. Considering the insecurities that come with DPD, relationships are often strained.

It is unclear why people develop DPD. Researchers and mental health professionals have struggled to find concrete factors that contribute to developing DPD.

Similarities Between Cases of Dependent Personality Disorder

Patients with dependent personality disorder do not seem to have a pattern of behavior or circumstances that contribute to the development of DPD. The only similarity between cases is they struggle with complications with establishing relationships.

Separation anxiety

Many people who have DPD struggled with separation anxiety as children. Separation anxiety is when a child is distressed when left without a parent nearby. A child with separation anxiety will become afraid when left alone, and act out until the parent returns. Many adults with DPD suffered from separation anxiety as children.

Chronic illness

Many people with DPD also suffer from chronic illness. This is not surprising to hear, considering many people with chronic illness rely heavily on the support of others.

A person with DPD and chronic illness may suffer from feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, as they cannot take care of themselves. This affects their sense of self-esteem and self-worth, as they are not able to perform many tasks as a result of their illness.

Their dependence on others often results in a dependent personality and a fear of abandonment. A person with chronic illness and DPD may believe they cannot survive without the support of another person.

Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent personality disorder is considered a personality disorder. Personality disorders often have symptoms that are challenging to identify and treat.

Because it is unclear how people develop DPD there is no definitive way to prevent it from developing. What we do know about DPD are the major symptoms:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of abandonment

In knowing this, it is possible to develop a plan to reduce the symptoms and onset of DPD.

How to Prevent Dependent Personality Disorder

A person is diagnosed with DPD in adulthood, but the symptoms listed above can begin to show in childhood and adolescence. The best way to prevent or reduce the symptoms of DPD is to target these symptoms as young as possible, and teach the child or adolescent about positive self-image and healthy coping strategies.

To combat low self-esteem, a person will begin with self-esteem building exercises. These exercises can be effective for both children and adults. To build a positive self-image, the affected person is encouraged to grow a sense of confidence and independence.

Helping a person build confidence and a better sense of self-esteem will reduce the fear of abandonment. If a person believes they will be able to take care of themselves, they are less likely to be dependent on others.

The goal in preventing DPD is to build trust in ‘the self’, so the affected person feels secure in their ability to stay well despite the actions of others.

Dependent personality disorder is a difficult disorder to understand and cope with. While the causes of DPD are unknown, the problematic behaviors associated with the disorder are clear.

Focusing energy in building confidence and self-esteem will reduce ‘neediness’. If a person feels they can depend on themselves, there is no need to feel dependent on others.

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