Dependent Personality Disorder Causes, Statistics, Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Dependent Personality Disorder?

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is the terrifying fear of being alone or abandoned. The person suffering from dependent personality disorder is completely dependent on others for their complete sense of being. The man or woman struggling with DPD is reliant on their significant relationships to meet all of their emotional and physical needs.

The cause of dependent personality disorder is unknown, but it is believed to be a complex combination of overprotective parenting, genetics, environmental factors and trauma. Unfortunately, there is not a cure for dependent personality disorder. The only resolution is continued behavioral therapy. The therapy provides the person suffering from DPD with tools to learn how to manage the disorder.

Dependent personality disorder is a debilitating disorder because it causes the man or woman to give up their personal identity and all decision making to someone else. A person with DPD is often considered to be clingy or needy. People with dependent personality disorder tend to fall into relationships that are both mentally and physically abusive. It is important to recognize the signs of dependent personality disorder because it can lead to treatment and help the individual fighting DPD to manage the disorder and live a productive life.

Statistics About Dependent Personality Disorder

Being among the most commonly diagnosed personality disorder, DPD is found in about 14% of people who have personality disorders and about 2.5% of the general population. Other estimates have shown a median prevalence rate of 20%, with a range from 2% to 55% [1]. Additional statistics that are relevant to dependent personality disorder include:

  • DPD has also been shown to be comorbid with mood and anxiety disorders, such as depression, phobias, obsessive‐compulsive, and alcohol abuse. Patients have poorer outcomes when they have the combination of mood and/or anxiety disorder along with dependency traits [1].
  • Research indicates that economic dependency in women and emotional dependency in men independently contribute to domestic-partner abuse risk and that high levels of emotional dependency in an abused partner may reduce the likelihood that the victimized person will terminate the relationship [2].

Causes of Dependent Personality Disorder

The causes of dependent personality disorder are unknown. It is believed that there are multiple components involved in developing DPD. Some researchers think that part of the cause is due to an overprotecting parenting style that can direct a child to develop dependent personality traits. It is also assumed that one’s surroundings and environment can play a crucial part in developing dependent personality disorder. It is thought that a man or woman’s social environment can interact with their genetic disposition and develop dependent personality disorder. More than likely, there has been some sort of trauma or abuse that has led the person to be more dependent on one or two other significant relationships.

Signs and Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent personality disorder is sometimes confused with borderline personality disorder (BPD). With BPD, the fear of abandonment is met with emptiness, fury and rage. A person with dependent personality disorder will meet the fear of abandonment with submissiveness and passivity. The sufferer will do virtually anything to avoid the rejection. They will also find another relationship to preserve his or her dependency. Some symptoms of dependent personality disorder include:

  • Need the reassurance of others to make even the most menial decisions
  • Avoids personal responsibility
  • Deny their individuality
  • Oversensitivity to criticism
  • Avoids being alone

Dependent Personality Disorder Effects

Living with dependent personality disorder can be exceedingly arduous. A normal fulfilling life cannot be lived because most all life decisions are made by someone else. There are a multitude of negative psychological effects and several social consequences, but there are only a few physical outcomes. If the warning signs of dependent personality disorder are identified, then the sufferer needs to seek professional assistance. Some of the psychological effects include:

  • See themselves as inadequate and/or helpless
  • Oversensitivity to criticism
  • Spend great effort trying to please others
  • Avoids personal responsibility
  • Deny their individuality
  • Avoids being alone
  • Define themselves as inept
  • Retain unsophisticated ideas
  • See others as they wish they were
  • Fear of separation
  • Turn their fate over to others
  • Exceptionally passive in relationships
  • View other people as powerful and competent

Some of the physical effects are:

  • Physical abuse
  • Death due to abuse

Negative social effects:

  • Can lead to drug and alcohol abuse
  • Relationships with family members are ruined
  • Lack of or no career
  • Can become reclusive
  • Self esteem is based on other’s opinions
  • Economic security can be lost

Dependent Personality Disorder Treatment

The only treatment for dependent personality disorder is long-term behavioral therapy. This is because there is not a cure for the disorder. The behavioral therapy will help the person suffering to learn how to manage the DPD. People dealing with dependent personality disorder will often find themselves in unhealthy relationships that can lead to mental abuse, physical abuse or both. This is a simple example of the significance to find professional assistance to manage the disorder. A dependent personality disorder treatment center can help a man or woman learn to control the disorder through various behavioral treatments.



[2]: Bornstein, Robert F., American Psychologist, Vol 61(6), Sep 2006, 595-606.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on, Substance Abuse Guide