People with dependent personality disorder (DPD) have a chronic need to be taken care of by other people and an intense fear of abandonment. Although the causes of this illness may be linked to childhood experiences, the personality disorder symptoms typically begin to manifest in early to middle adulthood. Dependent personality disorder is one of the most commonly diagnosed personality disorders, according to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (2009), and just as likely to occur in men as it is in women.
What Does Dependent Personality Disorder Look Like?
Because of their reliance on others and fear of abandonment, people with dependent personality disorder tend to behave in submissive ways. A person with DPD often takes a very pessimistic view of her own abilities, typically seeing herself as stupid or unable to do anything on her own. She takes criticism to heart and uses it to further undermine her abilities. Untreated dependent personality disorder can seriously interfere with career mobility, as people with the disorder tend to shy away from roles that involve leadership or independent decision-making.
People who have chronic dependent personality disorder symptoms often have unhealthy relationships. Due to his intense fear of being alone, someone with this disorder may go to extreme lengths to stay in an existing relationship, and may even tolerate abuse. A person with DPD is distraught if a relationship ends, and will also tend to quickly move to a new relationship to avoid being alone.
Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder
In addition to needy behavior and an intense fear of abandonment, people with dependent personality disorder often display many of the following symptoms:
- Avoidance of personal responsibility or jobs that involve high levels of responsibility
- Difficulty being alone
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism
- Inability to make even simple decisions without the advice of others
- Inability to initiate projects
- Naivete and tendency to live in a fantasy world
- Passivity in relationships with other people
- Pessimism and lack of self-confidence
- Tendency to place the needs of caregivers above their own
- Willingness to put up with abuse and mistreatment from others in order to stay in a relationship.
In addition, people with dependent personality disorder symptoms usually expend a great deal of effort trying to please others, even at the expense of their own wellbeing. They also often go to extreme lengths, such as taking on unpleasant tasks that no one else wants to do, in order to gain acceptance from other people.
Grohol, J.M. (2010). Dependent personality disorder. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx13.htm
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
Vorvick, L. (2008). Dependent personality disorder. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/dependent-personality-disorder/overview.html