Dependent Personality Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Condition updated on November 8th, 2018

Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a disorder in which a person has a strong fear of abandonment. A person with DPD will have a chronic fear of rejection. They are often described as ‘needy’ or ‘clingy’. This is because they constantly seek attention and validation from loved ones.

People with DPD have low self-esteem and a negative self-image. They often doubt themselves and do not hold themselves in high regard. They may feel they are not worth the affections of others and feel any warm sentiments or affections will not last. The constant suspicion of abandonment causes anxiety in a person with DPD.

Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder

People with DPD have several negative behavior patterns. A person with DPD will need approval from others. They will crave it so desperately that they will engage in problematic behavior, like:

  • Submissive behavior and avoidance of conflict or disagreeing with another person
  • Intense fear of rejection
  • Dependence on the care of others
  • Helpless behavior used to get attention and support from others
  • Fear and discomfort with being alone
  • Poor ability to accept criticism
  • Low self-esteem
  • Refusal to take responsibility for oneself
  • Extreme fear of abandonment
  • Low expectations of himself or herself
  • Anxietyand depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Lack of belief in oneself to be self-sufficient

Causes and Risk Factors of Dependent Personality Disorder

It is unclear what causes DPD. Many cases have developed with no outstanding issues, illnesses, or dysfunction. At this point little is known about the causes and risk factors of DPD.
There seems to be a link between DPD in adults who had one of the two following conditions:

  • Separation anxiety as children
  • Suffering from chronic illness

Separation anxiety is a condition in which a child or adolescent experiences distress when left alone. Even though children typically grow out of separation anxiety, many people with DPD have a history of separation anxiety. Untreated DPD will cause complications for the affected person and their loved ones.

Treatment for Dependent Personality Disorder

It is difficult to cope with DPD. People with DPD have a distorted view of themselves and the world. With such a pessimistic view of core forces of the self and the world, DPD can be difficult to treat.

The person who is suffering from DPD must be aware of the issue and their responsibility for the issue. If the patient is unable or unwilling to accept these factors they will not likely improve.

The following forms of treatment has been proven effective for DPD:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective form of therapeutic intervention. CBT teaches a person how their negative thoughts and attitudes affect their emotions and behavior. CBT can be effective in helping a patient learn how to relate to others. This can reduce the fear of rejection and abandonment.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is another effective form of therapy for patients with DPD. DBT helps the affected person understand how their dependent behavior negatively affects them. It teaches skills for relaxation and self-empowerment. DBT uses different techniques like simulations, group counseling and mindfulness training.
  • Psychiatric Intervention. Sometimes a patient with DPD will be prescribed psychiatric medication. Psychiatric medications like anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants help reduce reactive symptoms. It is important that the patient continue with counseling services in conjunction with psychiatric medications. This will ensure that the patient learns how to cope with his or her symptoms and not be reliant on the medication.

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