Of all the personality disorders, dependent personality disorder (DPD) is the most frequently diagnosed, according to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (2009). DPD is characterized by extreme dependence on others, intense fear of being left alone and an inability to make decisions. A person with dependent personality disorder will usually see herself as inept and incapable of caring for herself, so she will rely excessively on others for reassurance and decision-making.
As with other personality disorders, dependent personality disorder treatment can be challenging. In the case of dependent personality disorder, treatment typically involves therapy. Medication may also be used to treat some symptoms or underlying conditions.
Dependent Personality Disorder Therapy
Therapy is the preferred method of dependent personality treatment. However, therapy can be difficult because people with dependent personality disorder have a tendency to rely on their therapists, much as they do in their relationships with other people. For that reason, it is important for the therapist to set clear boundaries about the depth and duration of treatment before the program begins.
During therapy, the therapist works with the patient to improve self-confidence and increase independence. Dependent personality disorder treatment also sometimes involves assertiveness training. Group therapy may be an option for people with DPD, but can be risky because of the possibility of forming new dependent relationships.
In many cases, people with dependent personality disorder have been subjected to abuse and neglect, perhaps because many people with this disorder go to great lengths to stay in a relationship, even if it is unhealthy. Therapists typically wait to address these unhealthy relationships until the patient has been in therapy for some time. If the patient is unwilling or not ready to give up unhealthy relationships, he may stop trusting the therapist, making further treatment difficult.
Dependent personality disorder therapy is most effective when it targets specific life problems and takes place over a short period of time. In the case of dependent personality disorder, long-term treatment increases the risk that the patient will grow dependent on the therapist.
Concluding DPD treatment can be difficult, and even individuals who have shown improvement during therapy may face renewed anxiety and low self-esteem when the end of treatment nears. However, these feelings aren’t necessarily a sign that treatment should be continued.
Dependent Personality Disorder Medication
Medication is not as effective as therapy in treating DPD because it doesn’t address the root causes of the personality disorder. However, anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications can relieve some DPD symptoms if the person has another mood disorder–such as depression or anxiety–in addition to the personality disorder. People with dependent personality disorder have a higher-than-normal risk of abusing or becoming dependent on these drugs, so they should be monitored closely while on medication.
Grohol, J. (2010). Dependent personality disorder treatment. Retrieved August 16, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx13t.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 16, 2010, from http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/dependent-personality-disorder/overview.html