What is Dependent Personality Disorder?
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 pathologic.
Frequently Asked Questions about Dependent Personality Disorder
How is a Dependent Personality Disorder diagnosed?
The diagnosis of Dependent Personality Disorder should be made by a mental health professional. A person with Dependent Personality Disorder will demonstrate a pathological over-reliance on people around them. 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 Disorder may exhibit mood dysregulation or depression or anxiety. People suffering from dependent personality disorder (and their families) often feel their hardships are compounded by a lack of clear diagnoses, effective treatments, and accurate information. Dependent Personality Disorder is often misdiagnosed because features are not sharply defined and lack a clear set of diagnostic criteria. Furthermore, the diagnostic categories are not mutually exclusive. Often, people will show characteristics of more than one personality disorder. Finally, the dimensionality of personality characteristics (i.e., ranging from normal expressions of an emotion to pathological exaggerations) make diagnosis difficult, as the same emotional issues can be found on a smaller and less intense scale in many normal individuals.
What are symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder?
Persons with dependent personalities show clinging behaviors and over-reliance on other people around them. They avoid positions of responsibility and may become anxious when they are required to make a decision. They also lack independent initiative and have problems at work or school related to their inability to act autonomously. Persons with Dependent Personality Disorder may demonstrate mood dysregulation, and they are at higher risk for depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and co-occurring anxiety disorders.
What causes Dependent Personality Disorder?
Personality disorders are believed to be related to a person’s temperament, but no clear genetic pattern has been elucidated for Dependent Personality Disorder. Persons with a history of chronic illness as a child or those who experienced severe consequences of separation or abandonment may be predisposed. 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 dependent personalites may have grown up in a family that was overcontrolling where they were unable to establish their independence.
What is the Prognosis for Dependent Personality Disorder?
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 Disorder may be predisposed to other conditions, including depression or substance abuse which can complicate treatment.
What factors can slow recovery?
Persons with Dependent Personality Disorder usually lack the initiative or power to seek treatment or stay in treatment. As discussed, depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse (especially alcohol, marijuana or cocaine) are also prevalent among persons with Dependent Personality Disorder. Concurrent substance abuse dramatically interferes with effective psychological and medical treatment. Persons with Dependent Personality Disorder may have problems with family or loved ones, thus lacking an effective social support structure that is important to help with their recovery.
How Can Friends and Family Help?
Family and friends need to educate themselves about Dependent Personality Disorder to help foster the person’s autonomy and self-confidence. Family and loved ones can be a valuable resource in watching for maladaptive or unhealthy behaviors. Family can compel a person with Dependent Personality Disorder to enter a treatment facility, providing emotional support and financial resources.
When Should a Client enter a treatment center?
When a person with Dependent Personality Disorder is having serious problems that are negatively impacting their daily school or work life and personal and family relationships, an intensive treatment program is an appropriate option. Dependent Personality Disorder is a lifelong problem, and once per week psychotherapy or medication is often ineffective at managing a personality disorder. A treatment facility, like PCH Treatment Center, can be a powerful, effective choice, especially when the person with a dependent personality is not focused or motivated enough to make important changes in their life.
How does PCH Treatment Center treat Dependent Personality Disorder?
Dr. Jeff Ball is the Executive and Clinical Director of PCH Treatment Center. He has over 25 years of experience working with personality disorders, in both outpatient and inpatient settings. Dr. Ball has assembled a staff of highly qualified clinicians who have the experience and skill set to treat Dependent Personality Disorder. When a client arrives at PCH Dependent Personality Disorder Treatment Center, a thorough initial assessment is performed to obtain a proper diagnosis. Often, incorrect diagnoses or stigmatizing labels are discarded. Psychotherapy is the cornerstone of treatment, and clients receive up to five individual therapy sessions per week. Individual psychotherapy is complemented by a wide array of group therapies, including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Anger management, sleep hygiene, psycho-education, EMDR, and others. Neurofeedback and holistic therapies such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, art and music therapy are also important for recovery and healing. Family therapy groups are available, which incorporate family members or loved ones into the treatment environment. Family sessions are especially productive for a person with Dependent Personality Disorder.