Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a psychiatric condition characterized by chronic feelings of helplessness, dependence on others and a fear of being left alone. People with dependent personality disorder are often described as “clingy” or “needy” because they rely so heavily on other people. Someone with DPD typically has very low self-esteem, believing himself to be incapable of assuming too much responsibility.
Doctors aren’t quite sure of the exact dependent personality disorder causes. As is the case with most personality disorders, development is likely due to a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors.
Genetics and Personality
Some researchers believe that genetics and biology play a role in the development of personality disorders and related mental health conditions. Genetics may affect the biological structure of the brain, and some research indicates that faulty regulation of the part of the brain that controls emotions may increase the risk of developing a personality disorder. Not everyone who is predisposed to personality disorders will actually develop one, but negative childhood or adolescent experiences combined with a genetic predisposition may lead to dependent personality disorder.
In addition, people with dependent personality disorder may be more likely to have a biological temperament called harm avoidance. Certain people may be born with this temperament, which is marked by an inclination to worry excessively. People born with harm avoidance temperaments also tend to view the world very pessimistically, as a defense mechanism. For example, someone with this temperament often assumes that family and friends will eventually hurt him or leave him, so he adopts a defensive stance against this seemingly inevitable outcome by avoiding disagreements with others.
Personality Disorders Developmen
Although genetics and biology may play a factor in personality disorders development, key dependent personality disorder causes appear to be connected to environmental factors. For example, the children of overly protective and authoritative parents have a higher risk of developing dependent personality disorder as adults. In some cases, the children never get a chance to assert their own independence or assume any kind of responsibility, which conditions them to expect others to care for them in the future.
In addition, embarrassing social experiences in childhood or adolescence may fuel the pessimism and low self-esteem that is common in people with dependent personality disorder. Being humiliated by peers may convince a young person that he is stupid, and that self-doubt may translate into a perceived inability to take responsibility or perform tasks. This sense of helplessness tends to make him even more dependent on others.
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. (2010). Dependent personality disorder. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.minddisorders.com/Del-Fi/Dependent-personality-disorder.html
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Ploskin, D. (2007). What causes dependent personality disorder? Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/what-causes-dependent-personality-disorder/
The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. (2009). Dependent personality disorder. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/personality_disorders/hic_dependent_personality_disorder.aspx
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