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Dependent Personality Disorder

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Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is one of the most frequently diagnosed personality disorders. It occurs equally in men and women, usually becoming apparent in young adulthood or later as important adult relationships form.

What Are the Symptoms of DPD?

People with DPD become emotionally dependent on other people and spend great effort trying to please others. People with DPD tend to display needy, passive, and clinging behavior, and have a fear of separation. Other common characteristics of this personality disorder include:

  • Inability to make decisions, even everyday decisions like what to wear, without the advice and reassurance of others.
  • Avoidance of  adult responsibilities by acting passive and helpless. Dependence on a spouse or friend to make decisions like where to work and live.
  • Intense fear of abandonment and a sense of devastation or helplessness when relationships end. A person with DPD often moves right into another relationship when one ends.
  • Oversensitivity to criticism.
  • Pessimism and lack of self-confidence, including a belief that they are unable to care for themselves.
  • Avoidance of disagreeing with others for fear of losing support or approval.
  • Inability to start projects or tasks because of a lack of self-confidence.
  • Difficulty being alone.
  • Willingness to tolerate mistreatment and abuse from others.
  • Placing the needs of their caregivers above their own.
  • Tendency to be naive and to fantasize.

 

What Causes DPD?

Although the exact cause of DPD is not known, it most likely involves both biological and developmental factors. Some researchers believe an authoritarian or overprotective parenting style can lead to the development of dependent personality traits in people who are susceptible to the disorder.

How Is DPD Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of DPD must be distinguished from borderline personality disorder, as the two share common symptoms. In borderline personality disorder, the person responds to fears of abandonment with feelings of rage and emptiness. With DPD, the person responds to the fear with submissiveness and seeks another relationship to maintain his or her dependency.

If most or all the (above) symptoms of DPD are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by taking a thorough medical and psychiatric history and possibly a basic physical exam. Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose personality disorders, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests to rule out physical illness as the cause of the symptoms.

If the doctor finds no physical reason for the symptoms, he or she might refer the person to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other health care professional trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for a personality disorder.

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