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Dependent Personality Disorder - How It Can Be Treated?

Written and reviewed by
MD - Psychiatry
Psychiatrist, Jodhpur  •  10years experience
Dependent Personality Disorder - How It Can Be Treated?

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a frequently diagnosed personality disorder that is characterised by a strong need to be taken care of and a fear of being abandoned by important people in the patient’s life.
Symptoms include long-term dependent and submissive behaviours to elicit caregiving in others. The disorder is found equally in men and women.

Common signs

  1. Emotional dependence is one of the most common signs of DPD. Other signs are-
  2. Needy, passive, and clinging behaviour, and an intense fear of separation
  3. Inability to make everyday decisions without other’s advice and reassurance
  4. Avoidance of adult responsibilities
  5. Acting passive and helpless all the time
  6. Oversensitivity to criticism
  7. Lack of self-confidence
  8. Difficulty being alone
  9. Willingness to tolerate abuse from others

Causes of Dependent Personality Disorder ​(DPD)
Chronic physical illness or other psychological disorders like separation anxiety disorder in childhood can predispose a person to the development of dependent personality disorder. The exact cause of DPD is not known but several factors are involved like genetic, behavioural, psychological and temperamental.

Impaired parenting styles may also be to blame.
However, research suggests that no single factor is solely responsible rather, it is the complex and likely intertwined nature of all three factors that are important.

Many people with a dependent personality disorder don’t seek treatment till it starts to significantly interfere or impact their lives. This usually happens when a person can’t cope with stress due to life events.

People with DPD are more prone to develop depression or anxiety symptoms.

Treatments for DPD are focused around psychotherapy, a type of counselling. Its goal is to help a person become more active and independent and to learn to form healthy relationships. The psychologist prefers short term therapy with specific goals when the focus is on managing behaviours that interfere with day-to-day functioning.

Assertiveness training helps the person with DPD develop self-confidence and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps him or her develop new attitudes and perspectives about themselves that are positive. However, change in someone's personality structure usually requires long-term psychoanalytic therapy. In this type of therapy, childhood experiences are examined for formation of defence mechanisms, coping styles, and patterns of attachment in relationships.

DPD is the most difficult personality disorder to treat because of the patient’s strong need for constant reassurance and support. It is also very important for the doctor to monitor patient dependency.
Group therapy can also be helpful, although care needs to be taken so that the patient doesn’t use groups to reinforce dependent relationships in his life. Medication is also used though it’s not very effective. Medicines usually help DPD patients manage their depression or anxiety but not DPD. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Psychiatrist.

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