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Dependent personality disorder

Definition

Dependent personality disorder is a long-term (chronic) condition in which people depend too much on others to meet their emotional and physical needs.

Alternative Names

Personality disorder - dependent

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Dependent personality disorder usually begins in childhood. The causes of this disorder are unknown. It is one of the most common personality disorders, and is equally common in men and women.

Symptoms

People with this disorder do not trust their own ability to make decisions. They may be very upset by separation and loss. They may go to great lengths, even suffering abuse, to stay in a relationship.

Symptoms of dependent personality disorder may include:

  • Avoiding being alone
  • Avoiding personal responsibility
  • Becoming easily hurt by criticism or disapproval
  • Becoming overly focused on fears of being abandoned
  • Becoming very passive in relationships
  • Feeling very upset or helpless when relationships end
  • Having difficulty making decisions without support from others
  • Having problems expressing disagreements with others

Signs and tests

Like other personality disorders, dependent personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation and the history and severity of the symptoms.

Treatment

Talk therapy (psychotherapy) is considered to be the most effective treatment for gradually helping people with this condition make more independent choices in life. Medication may help treat other conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

Expectations (prognosis)

Improvements are usually seen only with long-term therapy.

Complications

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Depression
  • Increased likelihood of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider or a mental health professional if you or your adolescent has symptoms of dependent personality disorder.

References

Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 39.


Review Date: 11/23/2010
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Michelle Benger Merrill, MD, Instructor in Clinical Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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