Dependent personality disorder

Dependent personality disorder is a long-term (chronic) condition in which people depend too much on others to meet their emotional and physical needs.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Dependent personality disorder usually begins in childhood. The causes of this disorder are unknown. It is one of the most common personality disorders, and is equally common in men and women.

Symptoms

People with this disorder do not trust their own ability to make decisions. They may be very upset by separation and loss. They may go to great lengths, even suffering abuse, to stay in a relationship.

Symptoms of dependent personality disorder may include:

  • Avoiding being alone

  • Avoiding personal responsibility

  • Becoming easily hurt by criticism or disapproval

  • Becoming overly focused on fears of being abandoned

  • Becoming very passive in relationships

  • Feeling very upset or helpless when relationships end

  • Having difficulty making decisions without support from others

  • Having problems expressing disagreements with others

Signs and tests

Like other personality disorders, dependent personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation and the history and severity of the symptoms.

Treatment

Talk therapy (psychotherapy) is considered to be the most effective treatment for gradually helping people with this condition make more independent choices in life. Medication may help treat other conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

Expectations (prognosis)

Improvements are usually seen only with long-term therapy.

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