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by Scholten A

Definition

Dependent personality disorder is a pattern of helpless behavior. People who have it depend on others too much. They may feel unable to care for themselves.

Causes

The cause is not known. It may be due to genes and environment.

The Central Nervous System
Brain face skull
A personality disorder is most likely a combination of chemical or electrical imbalances in the brain and a reaction to traumatic personal experiences.
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Risk Factors

Dependent personality disorder is more common in women and young adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Childhood loss of a parent
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Long childhood illness

Symptoms

Symptoms may be:

  • Unfounded fear
  • Feeling powerless
  • Often needing others for:
    • Advice
    • Decisions
    • Approval
  • Low self-confidence
  • A strong reaction to criticism
  • Fear of rejection

Diagnosis

The doctor may refer you to mental health care. A therapist will ask about symptoms. A mental and health history will be taken. Diagnosis will be based on assessments.

Treatment

The goal is to help the person function. Other mental health problems may need treatment. Options may be:

  • Counseling—to help with coping
  • Support groups
  • Medicines—to treat problems such as anxiety and depression

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent dependent personality disorder.

RESOURCES

Mental Health America  http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net 

National Institute of Mental Health  https://www.nimh.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Psychiatric Association  https://www.cpa-apc.org 

Canadian Psychological Association  https://cpa.ca 

References

Alcohol use disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alcohol-use-disorder. Accessed on March 11, 2021.

Furnham A. A big five facet analysis of sub-clinical dependent personality disorder (dutifulness). Psychiatry Res. 2018;270:622-626.

Overview of personality disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/personality-disorders/overview-of-personality-disorders. Accessed March 11, 2021.

Personality disorder. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/personality-disorder. Accessed March 11, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 01/2021
  • Update Date: 03/11/2021