Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is an anxious
personality disorder characterized by the inability to be alone. People with
DPD develop symptoms of anxiety when they’re not around others. They rely on
other people for comfort, reassurance, advice, and support.
People who don’t have this condition sometimes deal with feelings
of insecurity. The difference is people with DPD need reassurance from others
to function. According to the Cleveland
Clinic, people with this condition normally first show signs in early to
Causes and Symptoms of DPD
A condition must fall into one of the following clusters to
be classified as a personality disorder:
A: awkward or eccentric behavior
B: exaggerated or erratic behavior
C: anxious, nervous behavior
DPD belongs to cluster C. Signs of this disorder include:
on friends or family for decision-making
- being easily
hurt by disapproval
isolated and nervous when alone
- being overly
sensitivity to criticism
unable to be alone
a tendency to be naïve
People with DPD may require constant reassurance. They can
become devastated when relationships and friendships are severed.
When alone, a person with DPD may experience:
- panic attacks
Some of these symptoms are the same for people with anxiety
disorders. People with medical conditions such as depression or menopause may
also experience some of these symptoms. Contact your doctor to receive a
specific diagnosis if you experience any of the above symptoms.
It’s unknown what causes people to develop DPD. However,
experts cite both biological and developmental factors.
Some risk factors that might contribute to the development
of this disorder include:
- having a history of neglect
- having an abusive upbringing
- being in a long-term, abusive relationship
- having overprotective/authoritarian parents
- having a family history of anxiety disorders
How Is DPD Diagnosed?
Your doctor will give you a physical exam to see if a physical
illness could be the source of symptoms, particularly anxiety. This may include
blood tests to check for hormone imbalances. If tests are inconclusive, your
doctor will likely refer you to a mental health specialist.
A psychiatrist or psychologist usually diagnoses DPD.
They’ll take your symptoms, history, and mental state into account during
Diagnosis begins with a detailed history of your symptoms.
This includes how long you’ve been experiencing them and how they came about. Your
doctor may also ask questions about your childhood and your present life.
How Is DPD Treated?
Treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms. Psychotherapy
(talk therapy) is often the first course of action. Therapy can help you better
understand your condition. It can also teach you new ways to build healthy
relationships with others and improve your self-esteem.
Psychotherapy is usually used on a short-term basis. Long-term
therapy could put you at risk of growing dependent on your therapist.
Medications can help relieve anxiety and depression, but are
generally used as a last resort. Your therapist or doctor may prescribe you a
medication to treat panic attacks that result from extreme anxiety. Some medications
for anxiety and depression are habit-forming, so you may have to see your
doctor regularly while taking them to prevent prescription dependence.
What Are the Potential Complications of DPD?
Complications that can arise from untreated DPD are:
disorders (such as panic disorder, avoidant personality disorder, and
obsessive-compulsive personality disorder)
(anxiety disorder characterized by a persistent fear of an object or
Early treatment can prevent many of these complications from
What’s My Outlook?
The cause of DPD is unknown, which makes it difficult to
prevent the condition from developing. However, recognizing and treating
symptoms early can prevent the condition from worsening.
People with DPD generally improve with treatment. Many of
the symptoms associated with the condition will decrease as treatment
Supporting Someone with DPD
DPD can be overwhelming. As with other personality
disorders, many people are ashamed to seek help for their symptoms. This can
affect quality of life and increase the long-term risk for anxiety and
If you suspect a loved one might have DPD, it’s important to
encourage them to seek treatment before their condition worsens. This can be a
sensitive matter for someone with DPD, especially since they seek constant
approval and don’t want to disappoint their loved ones. Focus on the positive
aspects to let your loved one know they’re not being rejected.