Dependent personality disorder is defined as “a pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts”.
Those affected by dependent personality disorder engage in dependent and submissive behaviors that are designed to elicit caregiving. These actions arise from the self-perception of being unable to function well without the help of others. They are constantly preoccupied with excessive fears of not being capable, not being good enough, or being left to make decisions by themselves without any support.
Patients find themselves unable to make simple, everyday decisions such as deciding what color shirt to wear, or what to make for dinner, without an excessive amount of reassurance and advice from others.
Dependent personality disorder is said to affect 0.49% of the population, and is also diagnosed more frequently in females.
While there are benefits to cooperation and dependence, group living produces pressure to conform to pressure within groups. People with dependent personality disorder tend to follow through with the plans or ideas of others even when they feel uncomfortable in that situation.
In addition, the group dynamic created by those affected by dependent personality disorder can have further negative affects, such as causing greater anxiety and more aggression. A group dynamic can also negatively affect those unaffected by dependent personality disorder.
Diagnosis for dependent personality disorder follows these criteria, and requires the person to exhibit symptoms as stated below:
• Has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others.
• Needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of their life.
• Has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval.
• Has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on their own (because of a lack of self-confidence).
• Goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant.
• Feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care of self.
• Urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends.
• Is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of self.
Psychotherapy is the most common form of treatment for this disorder. Patients are rarely prescribed medication unless it is related to another co-occurring disorder such as depression or anxiety.
The most common forms of therapy for this disorder are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and person-centered talk therapy. In addition, people diagnosed with dependent personality disorder are encouraged to join support groups, or partake in group therapy.