Dependent personality disorder is a mental condition in which people depend too much on others to meet their emotional and physical needs.
Causes of dependent personality disorder are unknown. The disorder usually begins in childhood. It is one of the most common personality disorders and is equally common in men and women.
People with this disorder don't 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
Exams and Tests
Dependent personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation. The health care provider will consider how long and how severe the person's symptoms have been.
Talk therapy is considered to be the most effective treatment. The aim is to help people with this condition make more independent choices in life. Medicines may help treat other mental conditions, such as anxiety or depression, which occur along with this disorder.
Improvements are usually seen only with long-term therapy.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
See your provider or a mental health professional if you or your child has symptoms of dependent personality disorder.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7, anytime day or night.
You can also call 911 or the local emergency number or go to the hospital emergency room. DO NOT delay.
If someone you know has attempted suicide, call 911 or the local emergency number right away. DO NOT leave the person alone, even after you have called for help.
Personality disorder - dependent
American Psychiatric Association website. Personality disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR), Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association Publishing; 2022.
Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA, Hopwood CJ. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 39.
Review Date 11/6/2022
Updated by: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.