Common Dependent Personality Disorder Symptoms

What is Dependent Personality Disorder?

People with this condition depend much more than is normal on others for their physical and/or emotional wellbeing. For example, they might fear or avoid being alone, be afraid of abandonment, and might persist with unhealthy relationships to avoid being alone.

The causes of DPD are unknown; this disorder tends to develop during childhood or early adulthood, and it affects men and women in equal numbers. Treatment usually consists of psychotherapy, with the addition of medication if any associated or underlying mental health conditions require it.

People with DPD are at risk of depression, phobias, other anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. In addition, people with this disorder are at risk of abuse because they are willing to go to great lengths to maintain their relationships, particularly with partners.

Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder

One of the most obvious symptoms that might be noticed in someone with DPD is that the person does not trust in his or her own ability to make decisions, or to make the "right" decisions, even in small every-day matters. The person is more likely to second-guess their decisions, or repeatedly ask other people for advice on what to do and the best choices to make.

Another of the most common dependent personality disorder symptoms is that a person with the condition will go to almost any lengths to avoid being alone, and might have unreasonable fears related to being alone. For example, the person might:

  • Have a preoccupation with relationships ending, with abandonment, or being alone.
  • Take an extremely passive role in relationships with others, often avoiding disagreement over small matters as well as larger ones. The person will also typically put the needs of others far ahead of their own.
  • Stay in relationships that are hurtful or unhealthy. For example, a person with DPD might refuse to leave an abusive partner.
  • Have an extreme reaction to the end of a relationship or friendship, with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and possibly depression.
  • Enter into a new relationship very quickly after the end of a previous relationship.

Someone with DPD is also likely to avoid shouldering personal responsibility whenever possible. For example, the person might persist in remaining in a low-level occupation for which he or she is over-qualified, to avoid having to work independently or take on more responsibility.

Sensitivity to criticism is another possible symptom of people with DPD. Someone with this disorder will often be very hurt by any type of disapproval or criticism expressed by another person, and might have an unreasonable fear that the other person will abandon them or cause some other type of harm.

In addition to these dependent personality disorder symptoms, someone with the disorder is typically unable to cope when he or she is forced by circumstances to live alone.

References

Merck Manuals Home Medical Reference: Personality Disorders

PsychNet UK: Dependent Personality Disorder Fact Sheet

The Cleveland Clinic: Dependent Personality Disorder

US National Institutes of Health MedlinePlus: Dependent Personality Disorder