Dependent Personality Disorder: Understanding Its Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is a mental health disorder characterized by excessive reliance on others for emotional and physical needs. People with DPD have an intense fear of separation and often feel a strong need to be cared for, regardless of their age or life experience.

Causes of Dependent Personality Disorder.

Like many other mental health disorders, DPD is caused by a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Some of the potential causes of DPD include:

  • Early childhood experiences: People who had overprotective or neglectful parents are at a higher risk of developing DPD. Overprotective parenting can lead to a sense of helplessness and dependency, while neglectful parenting can result in an insecure attachment style.
  • Genetic factors: DPD tends to run in families, indicating a possible genetic basis for the disorder.
  • Brain chemistry: Some research suggests that DPD may be related to differences in brain chemistry, specifically a lower level of dopamine receptors in certain areas of the brain.

Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder.

DPD can be difficult to diagnose because it often masquerades as other mental health disorders or is accompanied by other conditions. Some of the most common symptoms of DPD include:

  • Difficulty making decisions: People with DPD have trouble making even minor decisions without the input or approval of someone else.
  • Intense fear of abandonment: People with DPD fear being left alone and may go to great lengths to avoid separation from their loved ones.
  • Lack of self-confidence: People with DPD often lack confidence in their abilities and struggle with self-doubt.
  • Difficulty initiating projects or tasks: People with DPD may have trouble starting new projects or tasks without first seeking approval or guidance from someone else.
  • Submissive behavior: People with DPD tend to be passive and compliant, going along with what others want rather than asserting their own needs or desires.
  • Difficulty disagreeing with others: People with DPD may have trouble disagreeing with others, even if they have a strong difference of opinion.
  • Difficulty being alone: People with DPD may feel anxious or panic-stricken when they are alone or when they perceive that they are alone.
  • Overreliance on others: People with DPD rely heavily on others for emotional or physical support, even to the point of allowing their own needs to be neglected.

Treatment Options for Dependent Personality Disorder.

Some of the most effective treatments for DPD include:

  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy can help people with DPD learn to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy allows people with DPD to connect with others who are struggling with similar issues, reducing feelings of isolation and increasing support.
  • Medication: Antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and other medications may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of DPD.
  • Social support: Having a strong support network of family and friends can help people with DPD feel less isolated and more capable of taking care of themselves.
  • Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise, healthy eating, and adequate rest can help people with DPD feel better both physically and emotionally.

Living with Dependent Personality Disorder.

Living with DPD can be challenging, but there are ways to manage the disorder and live a fulfilling life. Some tips for living with DPD include:

  • Seeking professional help: Working with a mental health professional can help you learn more about your disorder and develop coping strategies to manage your symptoms.
  • Building a support network: Surround yourself with people who are supportive and understanding of your struggles.
  • Learning to be independent: Take small steps to learn how to be more self-reliant, such as making decisions on your own or taking on small tasks without seeking approval first.
  • Practicing self-care: Make time for activities that bring you joy and practice good self-care habits like getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising regularly.
  • Challenging negative thoughts and feelings: When negative thoughts or feelings arise, challenge them with positive affirmations or seek support from a trusted friend or therapist.
  • Learning boundaries: Learning how to set healthy boundaries with people can help you establish more fulfilling and respectful relationships.


Living with Dependent Personality Disorder can be challenging, but it is possible to manage the disorder and live a fulfilling life. By seeking professional help, building a support network, and practicing self-care, people with DPD can learn how to become more independent and break free from the cycle of dependency.


FAQs: Dependent Personality Disorder

What is Dependent Personality Disorder?

Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is a mental health condition characterized by a lack of self-confidence and an excessive need to be taken care of by others. People with DPD have difficulties making decisions and may rely heavily on others to make choices for them. They often feel helpless, fearful, and powerless when alone or faced with a challenge.

What are the possible causes of Dependent Personality Disorder?

The exact causes of DPD are not fully understood, but some researchers suggest that it may be due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors. People with a history of neglect, abuse, or trauma are more likely to develop this condition. Additionally, a family history of DPD or other types of mental illness may increase the risk of developing the disorder.

How is Dependent Personality Disorder treated?

Treatment for DPD typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common approach that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed to reduce anxiety and improve mood. It’s important to seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional who can help develop a personalized treatment plan.


1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).

2. Bornstein, R. F., & Sederer, L. I. (2014). Dependent Personality Disorder. In Encyclopedia of Mental Health (2nd ed., pp. 385-387). Elsevier.

3. McLean, C., & Gallop, R. (2003). Implications of Frequent Attendance by Patients with Dependent Personality Disorder. Psychiatric Services, 54(11), 1457-1460.