Dependent Personality Disorder

What is Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is an excessive dependence on others to meet your emotional and physical needs. DPD is marked by anxiety and often develops in childhood. Almost everyone with DPD develops the conditions before the age of 29.


There are several dependent personality disorder symptoms. One of the main features of this condition is a mistrust in yourself. Individuals with this condition often prefer the support and guidance of others in making even small, everyday decisions.

Traits of dependent personality disorder:

  • Struggle with decision-making by themselves.
  • Mistrust in themselves.
  • Lack of personal responsibility.
  • Extreme fear of abandonment.
  • Dislike of being alone.
  • Feeling hurt by any criticism or disapproval.
  • Difficulty with conflict.
  • Avoiding conflict in relationships.
  • Passivity or submissiveness in relationships.
  • Extreme feelings of powerlessness after breakups.

A manic episode is severe enough to significantly impair a person’s social or occupational functioning or to necessitate hospitalization in order to prevent self-harm or harm to others. True manic episodes are not caused by the physiological effects of a substance (alcohol, recreational drugs, medications) or by another medical condition.

Untreated manic episodes can last from a few days to several months. During a severe manic episode, a person may become psychotic or delusional, losing touch with reality. His or her behaviors may seem bizarre to others.

Episodes of depression, which often follow manic episodes days or weeks later, may include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Low energy and activity
  • Suicidal thoughts


There are no specific dependent personality disorder causes. However, the development of the condition is likely the result of three main factors: Family history, environment, and life experience.

Dependent personality disorder factors:

  • Family history—A family history of the condition likely places a person at higher risk of developing dependent personality disorder.
  • Childhood trauma—Trauma during childhood can cause anxiety, passivity, and dependence.
  • Abusive relationships—Abusive relationships can lead to unhealthy dependence on partners for our emotional and physical needs.
  • Cultural influences—Sometimes cultural, religious, and family behaviors play a role in the development of the condition.


Dependent personality disorder diagnosis usually begins with a discussion of your symptoms and a routine physical exam. Your doctor will look for medical or physical reasons for your symptoms. There is no specific dependent personality disorder test. However, your doctor will likely refer to the diagnostic criteria in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

According to the DSM, the following factors indicate DPD:

  • Extreme fear of abandonment.
  • Difficulty expressing personal opinions because of fear of criticism.
  • Excessive anxiety when alone.
  • Struggle to manage common life responsibilities.
  • Urgent need to receive support from others.
  • Excessive difficulty making everyday decisions.
  • Inability to start or finish projects.
  • Desperation to quickly replace relationships when a friendship or relationship ends.

Treatment & Recovery

Psychotherapy is the main dependent personality disorder treatment. Psychotherapy helps you to understand your condition, reduce symptoms, and build skills for healthy independence and healthy relationship development. Psychotherapy is often a short-term treatment to avoid unintentionally developing dependence on a therapist. Medication is sometimes used as a last resort to relieve symptoms.

If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms of dependent personality disorder, a behavioral care specialist at Baptist Health may be able to help.

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