What is Dependent Personality Disorder or Dependency?


iStock_000001095739_LargeDependent personality, often referred to as “dependent personality disorder” is characterized by a pervasive psychological dependence on another person or people to meet emotional or physical needs. Persons with a dependent personality have low self-esteem and feel inadequate and helpless. They may demonstrate submissive and clinging behavior with a fear of separation. There is passivity and an inability to cope without the support of others. Dependent persons frequently involve themselves in unhealthy or inappropriate relationships to avoid being alone. While dependent behavior is a normal childhood developmental stage, by early adulthood and beyond this behavior is abnormal. At PCH Treatment Center, we avoid the use of stigmatizing labels, such as the term “personality disorder.” Dependency is a significant relational issue that we address in our intensive treatment programs.


How is a Dependent Personality diagnosed?


A person with Dependent Personality will demonstrate a pathological over-reliance on people around them. They also avoid positions of responsibility and may become anxious when they are required to make a decision. They subordinate their needs to others and feel helpless when alone with severe fear of abandonment. In addition to dependent behaviors, persons with Dependent Personality may exhibit mood dysregulation or depression or anxiety. People with a dependent personality often feel their hardships are compounded by a lack of clear diagnosis, effective treatment, and accurate information. Dependent Personality is often misdiagnosed because features are not sharply defined and lack a clear set of diagnostic criteria.


What causes Dependent Personality?


Personality issues are often derived from a person’s innate temperament; however, no clear genetic patterns have been elucidated for Dependent Personality. Persons with a history of severe chronic illness as a child or those who experienced severe consequences of separation or abandonment show a higher incidence of dependency. Childhood psychological trauma, including physical or sexual abuse, an unstable family life as a child, or severe loss (such as death of parents or siblings), results in a higher risk of development of Dependent Personality Disorder. Persons with dependency issues may have grown up in a family that was over-controlling where they were unable to establish their independence.


What is the Prognosis for Dependent Personality?


Dependent Personality Disorder is generally a life-long disturbance with periods of quiescence and exacerbation (worsening) dependent on life circumstances. Continuing psychotherapy, sleep and stress management, and psycho-education can significantly improve the level of functioning and autonomy of someone with a dependent personality. Persons with Dependent Personality may have co-occuring conditions, including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or substance abuse. Persons with Dependent Personality issues usually avoid seeking treatment.  As discussed, depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse (especially alcohol, marijuana or cocaine) are also prevalent among persons with Dependent Personality.



How does PCH treat Dependent Personality?


PCH Treatment Center has a highly trained staff of analytic therapists who help clients experience deep changes in their functioning and level of happiness. PCH offers a wide range of therapies to help persons with dependency issues gain insight and coping skills. We offer group therapies, neurofeedback, mentalization, mindfulness-based stress reduction and other modalities which reinforce the progress clients make with their intensive individual therapy schedule. PCH Treatment Center offers one a unique program that integrates deep relational psychotherapy with holistic activities. Clients receive very close oversight by their program director, who coordinates their care with individual and group therapists, psychiatry and other therapy providers.

Contact PCH Treatment Center

11965 Venice Blvd., Suite 202, Los Angeles, CA 90066

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