What is Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?

dependent personality disorder

What is Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?

Personality disorders are mental health conditions that affect an individual’s way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Even further, these mental health conditions cause someone’s personality to deviate from societal and cultural norms. This leads to problems functioning and severe distress in their lives.

There are ten different types of personality disorders, with dependent personality disorder being one of them. This specific one is characterized by anxiety and a feeling of helplessness, causing people to feel like they need someone to care for them.

About 0.5 to 0.6% of the population suffers from a dependent personality disorder.[1]

Understanding Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a mental health condition that causes people to behave submissively, feel helpless, and act as if they need to be taken care of. In other words, this condition causes people to become codependent upon others around them.

People with DPD may have a difficult time making decisions for themselves without excessive reassurance and advice. This level of dependency can cause significant strain on their relationships with others and their ability to function in their daily lives.

Dependent personality disorder typically begins during childhood or before the age of 29. Typically, this condition affects women more often than men, however, the difference in prevalence is very slim.

What are the Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent personality disorder comes hand in hand with separation anxiety. Separation anxiety causes people to become extremely clingy or needy around others. They may spend a great deal of time attempting to please the people around them.

The common symptoms of DPD include:

  • Inability to make seemingly simple decisions such as what to wear for the day
  • Avoidance of responsibilities by behaving helplessly or passively
  • Intense fear of abandonment that leads to devastation when relationships end
  • Getting into a new relationship as soon as the previous one ends (avoiding being alone)
  • Oversensitivity to criticism
  • Lack of self-confidence and believing they are unable to care for themselves
  • Difficulty being alone
  • Tendency to be naive or child-like
  • Placing the needs of their caregiver over their own
  • Avoiding disagreeing with others out of a fear of losing support or approval
  • Willingness to tolerate mistreatment or abuse from others
  • Inability to start tasks because of a lack of self-confidence

What are the Causes of DPD?

While the exact cause of DPD is unknown, mental health experts believe a combination of factors places people at a higher risk of developing this personality disorder.

Individuals are at a higher risk of developing dependent personality disorder if they:

  • Have a history of being in abusive relationships
  • Experienced childhood abuse, neglect, or a life-threatening illness during adolescence
  • Have a family member with DPD or another type of anxiety disorder
  • Belong to a culture or religion that emphasizes reliance on authority

It is important to note that individuals who struggle with personality disorders like DPD are more likely to become addicted to substances. This occurs due to the person’s severe separation anxiety. They begin to attempt to self-medicate their symptoms with drugs or alcohol, leading to a dependency on a certain substance.

Diagnosing Dependent Personality Disorder

When someone is diagnosed with DPD, they will first undergo a full assessment of their mental health history. This prevents them from being misdiagnosed due to overlapping symptoms. After this is completed, the mental health provider will begin to ask questions about how the patient feels, what symptoms they are experiencing, and if they have any other concerns like substance abuse.

If the person meets the diagnostic criteria for dependent personality disorder, they will receive a diagnosis and begin treatment. The diagnostic criteria include:

  • An all-consuming and exaggerated fear of being abandoned
  • Feelings of anxiety and helplessness when alone
  • Inability to manage responsibilities without help or approval from others
  • Hard time stating their opinions due to a fear of loss of support or approval
  • Strong drive to get approval from others that causes them to do things they wouldn’t normally do to receive it
  • Trouble making everyday decisions without input from others
  • Being unable to start tasks due to low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence
  • A strong urge to enter a new relationship as soon as a close relationship ends

While struggling with a dependent personality disorder is difficult, individuals need to avoid self-medicating with substances. Addiction and personality disorders commonly co-occur, making treatment complicated.

DPD is treatable and manageable with the help of a mental health professional or a dual diagnosis treatment center for individuals with comorbid substance abuse. The main treatment for this mental health condition is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people with DPD learn how to improve their self-confidence, ability to rely on themselves, and create positive relationships.

Mental Health Treatment at Florida Recovery Group

Life with mental health issues can be overwhelming and affect every part of you and your loved ones lives in so many ways. At Florida Recovery Group, we offer a separate mental health program specifically for adults 18 and older who suffer with emotional and psychiatric health issues. Our team of mental health therapists and medical professionals will evaluate, diagnose and treat the root cause with compassion and empathy.

Call now to get started.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138327/