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Dependent personality disorder

Dependent personality disorder is a mental condition in which people depend too much on others to meet their emotional and physical needs.

Causes

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.

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

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 are.

Treatment

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.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Improvements are usually seen only with long-term therapy.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

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.

Alternative Names

Personality disorder - dependent

References

American Psychiatric Association. Dependent personality disorder. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013;675-678.

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 11/18/2016

Updated by: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.