Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a chronic condition characterized by a lack of confidence, a need to be cared for by others and an inability to make decisions. A person with dependent personality disorder is typically terrified of being left alone because he believes that he is incapable of taking care of himself. People with DPD tend to be needy and are excessively clingy in relationships.

Dependent Personality Disorder Criteria

As is the case with all personality disorders, a person must be at least 18 years old to be diagnosed with dependent personality disorder. In addition, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) requires at least five of the following symptoms to be present in a patient for her to receive a dependent personality disorder diagnosis:

  • A need for others to take responsibility for major areas of her life
  • An excessive need for support and nurturing from others that often leads to extremes, such as tolerating abuse or cruelty in order to stay in a relationship, or volunteering for unpleasant tasks
  • Difficulty expressing disagreement because of a fear of alienating other people
  • Difficulty making simple decisions, such as needing advice and reassurance about what clothing to wear or what to order in a restaurant
  • Feelings of helplessness when left alone
  • Preoccupation with unrealistic fears of being left alone
  • Reluctance to initiate projects or do anything on his own, believing that he is incapable of doing things himself
  • Tendency to seek a new relationship immediately after a previous relationship ends.

These symptoms must be chronic and appear consistently in a variety of situations. In most cases, they appear by early adulthood. Children and adolescents should not be diagnosed with dependent personality disorder because their dependence on others is age appropriate. Likewise, adults who display some of these characteristics should not be diagonsed with DPD if their dependence is situation appropriate (such as with certain elderly or disabled adults).

Getting a Dependent Personality Disorder Diagnosis

A dependent personality disorder diagnosis is typically given by a licensed psychologist. Diagnostic tools include an interview, personality disorder quizzes or a personality disorder test so that the psychologist can identify patterns of thought or behavior that are linked with dependent personality disorder.

The person seeking diagnosis typically must submit a medical history and have a thorough physical examination with a doctor before meeting with a psychologist. This allows the doctor to rule out any potential physical causes of dependent personality disorder symptoms. Additional personality disorder tests may be administered to make sure that the symptoms aren’t due to another condition, such as avoidant personality disorder or borderline personality disorder.


Croft, H. (2010). Dependent personality disorder. Retrieved August 16, 2010, from

Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. (2010). Dependent personality disorder. Retrieved August 16, 2010, from

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. (2009). Dependent personality disorder. Retrieved August 16, 2010, from

 Posted on : June 23, 2014