Compared to many other personality disorders, dependent personality disorder (DPD) remains less discussed, although it is believed to be relatively common. Furthermore, it can be an extremely debilitating condition that places enormous strain on loved ones and interpersonal relationships.
If left unaddressed, DPD can dramatically impair the life of the individual afflicted and impede his or her ability to exercise independence and accept responsibility. Also, close friends and family may experience severe emotional and financial issues as a result.
What Is Dependent Personality Disorder?
DPD is a mental health condition in which individuals have difficulty with decision-making, even when it comes to everyday choices that others might consider common-sense. They continuously need advice and reassurance from others in their lives, such as parents, siblings, peers, or a spouse. They also have a low tolerance for criticism and disapproval, and such responses may offer them confirmation of their own presumed inadequacy.
Persons with DPD might consider themselves entirely incapable of functioning independently. They will conform to circumstances and experiences that make them feel anxious or uncomfortable, rather than risk losing the support of the individual(s) they are dependent upon for supervision and direction.
With DPD, normal daily activities can be significantly impaired if independence or creative thinking is required. These individuals often keep a limited number of people in their inner social circle, particularly those they depend on. When an individual with a dependent personality is in a relationship that has failed, they may promptly seek another relationship to render the emotional support they crave and relieve feelings of abandonment.
Dependent Personality Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Words and phrases used by loved ones to describe a person close to them with DPD may include “clingy” and “emotionally needy” or “starved for attention.” People with DPD tend to display needy behavior toward others caused by an often crippling fear of abandonment.
Signs of DPD also include the following:
- Inability to make day-to-day decisions without the reassurance or guidance of others
- Dependence on others to enact decisions like where they should work and live
- Avoiding adult responsibilities through helpless behavior
- Unreasonable sensitivity to criticism, even if constructive
- Willingness to endure neglect or abuse, often putting the needs of others above their own
- Profound, unrealistic fear of abandonment, separation, or being alone
- Feelings of devastation and helplessness when relationships end
- Avoidance of initiating tasks or projects due to a lack of self-confidence and self-worth
- Avoiding arguments with others for fear of losing their support or friendship
Like many personality disorders, DPD usually onsets in early adulthood (by age 29) and tends to decrease in severity with age.
Dependent Personality Disorder Causes
Like most mental health disorders, there isn’t one known cause of DPD. Rather, a combination of factors are thought to play a role, including a person’s genetic profile, psycho-emotional status, developmental experience, and overall temperament.
Among other potential risk factors include separation anxiety as a child. Also, children who experience prolonged physical illness may face a heightened risk of developing DPD. Females may be more likely than their male counterparts to develop the condition. Some experts also suggest that an overprotective parenting style can develop DPD characteristics in those who are especially susceptible.
The Link Between Mental Health Conditions and Substance Abuse
Substance abuse and addiction are much more prevalent among those who experience co-occurring mental health issues than the general population. Some individuals with DPD may use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, emotionally cope, or manage their symptoms. There may also be significant risk factors in common between mental disorders such as DPD and substance abuse and addiction.
The misuse of prescription drugs is common among individuals with DPD. Prescription medications tend to be slower-acting than illicit substances and may take several weeks to induce the desired emotional relief. When an individual isn’t immediately experiencing the results they seek, abuse can become a problem.
In addition to medication overuse, illicit drugs and alcohol can interfere with treatment for DPD because therapy concentrates on addressing underlying mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Although drugs like marijuana and alcohol may appear to offer respite from a mental disorder’s symptoms, these substances also tend to have some adverse side effects, especially when used by those affected by DPD or other mental illnesses.
Treatment for Substance Abuse and DPD
When these two mental health conditions co-exist, they must be medically addressed simultaneously and not independently. Treatment for substance abuse alone will probably not significantly relieve symptoms of DPD, and treatment for DPD, although potentially beneficial, will not necessarily prevent or reverse drug dependence or the associated compulsive behaviors.
Moreover, treatment for both conditions should involve a comprehensive approach that includes various therapies, including behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, and group support.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer evidence-based programs that effectively treat individuals with a dual diagnosis. We employ highly-skilled health professionals and addiction specialists who collaborate to evaluate each individual we treat and develop treatment programs tailored to each person’s unique needs and goals.