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Dependent Personality Disorder

What is dependent personality disorder?

People who have dependent personality disorder always feel like they need someone else to take care of them. They worry all the time about being left alone and feel anxious and very tense when they are alone.

How does it occur?

The cause of this disorder is not known. Experts think it may be caused by differences in the brain or nervous system. It might also be related to problems in the family such as abuse, financial stresses, death of loved ones, or mental illness. The disorder usually appears in early adulthood. More women than men have this disorder.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of dependent personality disorder include:

  • having unusually high needs for attention and support
  • having trouble making everyday decisions without lots of advice and reassurance from others
  • needing others to be responsible for most major areas of life
  • rarely disagreeing with others due to fearing loss of support or approval
  • having trouble starting projects or doing things because they lack self-confidence in their judgment or abilities
  • going to great lengths to get support from others, even offering to do things that are unpleasant
  • feeling uncomfortable or helpless when alone because they fear being unable to care for themselves
  • desperately seeking another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends
  • worrying constantly that they will be left all alone to take care of themselves

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider or therapist will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He or she may also:

  • give you a personality test
  • suggest lab tests to rule out medical problems
  • make sure medicines are not causing or increasing your symptoms
  • rule out other mental health problems.

How is it treated?

Psychotherapy can help you see yourself more clearly. It helps you recognize the effects of your behavior on others. This can help you change behaviors that get in the way of living a satisfying life.

Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) is a way to help you identify and change views you have of yourself, the world, and the future that are not realistic. This therapy helps you recognize unhealthy ways of thinking. You learn new thought and behavior patterns that lead to healthier living. Assertiveness training is also very effective in treating this disorder.

When should I seek help?

If your symptoms are seriously interfering with your daily life, seek help from your healthcare provider or a mental health professional.

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-08-13
Last reviewed: 2010-08-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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