Dependent personality disorder (A 3 point guide)

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This blog post will explore what Dependent Personality Disorder is and what are the diagnostic criteria of this disorder according to the DSM-5. 

We will also explore what are the risk factors, prevalence rates, and the treatment options and outlook for people who have this disorder. 

What is dependent personality disorder?

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is one of the 10 personality types that has been recognised by the Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental illness, fifth Edition. 

This particular disorder has been categorised in the third cluster of personality disorders and is a type of anxious personality disorder. 

People with DPD often experience the feeling of helplessness and often think  that they are incapable of helping themselves or taking care of themselves. 

They are often very submissive towards perceived figures of authority as well as in equal relationships and often have trouble making decisions for themselves or carrying out their own personal buddies and responsibilities without support. 

A person with this mental disorder struggle with a lack of self-confidence and self-efficacy and often have an overwhelming need to be taken care of by others. They tend to rely on people for emotional as well as physical needs to the point that it is no longer supported by unhealthy dependence. 

It affects the way they think, behavre, and feel about themselves and the world around them and is often seen as clingy or needy by others. At the bottom of the issue, this disorder is caused by a lack of self-efficacy and fear of abandonment where people with this disorder truly believe that they are incapable and have this preoccupation with being abandoned. 

They often are unable to be independent, have their own values and beliefs, and as a result lack expressing decisions or being assertive for fear that they will be abandoned or lose support. 

In some cases, people with this disorder can live on their own but they tend to let other people do it for them for fear of seeming too competent and losing support. Thus, the issue is not just self efficacy but it is also driven by this deep fear of abandonment. 

What are the diagnostic criteria of Dependent personality disorder?

The diagnostic and statistical manual of Mental disorders published by the American Psychological Association has listed out the following criteria for the diagnosis of Dependent Personality disorder. 

The information below has been retrieved from the DSM-5. The criteria is as following:

An individual who has been affected by Dependent personality disorder experiences excessive and pervasive need to be taken care of , is submissive, clinging, needy behaviour, and experiences a fear of separation. 

This particular criteria may be expressed by:

  • They experience extreme difficulty making routine decisions without input, reassurance, and advice from others.
  • Often requires others to assume responsibilities over the e major areas of their life that they need to take control over.
  • They also fear disagreeing with others and risking disapproval- often in the family, relationships, and in their workplace. 
  • Difficulty starting projects or doing things on their own without support from others because they lack the self-confidence to do so. 
  • They go to excessive lengths to meet their excessive need to obtain nurturance and support from others, even allowing others to impose themselves on them- such as doing things that are unpleasant to appease other people. 
  • They feel uncomfortable being alone, and feel helpless because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for themselves. 
  • Desperately seeks another relationship when one ends so as to maintain a source of support and care.
  • They have unrealistic preoccupation with being left alone, abandoned, and fears related to being unable to care for themselves. 

These symptoms often begin in early adulthood and are present in almost all situations and contexts of their lives. However, it must be mentioned that it can appear in adolescents as well. 

This is often marked by inability to meet their own age appropriate responsibilities such as what clothes to wear, unable to perform their chores, regression in their academics that is not related to intelligence or learning disabilities. 

What are the prevalence rates of Dependent personality disorder?

According to the statistics on the prevalence of dependent personality disorder based on a 2001-2002 survey, the disorder itself is a rare condition that affects only 0.49 to 0.6% of the population. 

Dependent personality disorder is typically observed in young adulthood; some studies have shown that it occurs more in women but opposing research finds that it occurs at about the same rate in people of all genders. 

The prevalence of the disorder is affected by various diagnostic issues such as, in children and adolescents the symptoms of the disorder that tends to be age appropriate which might lead to misdiagnosis. 

The disorder’s diagnosis might also be affected by cultural factors where some might see it as appropriate based on age and cultural norms where there is emphasis on passivity, politeness, and dependency. 

What are the risk factors and comorbidity of dependent personality disorder?

Some of the risk factors that can increase the risk of an individual developing Dependent personality disorder include:

  • Childhood abuse such as child abused- verbal, physical, pscyhological, and sexual abuse. 
  • Trauma that occured early on such as a life threatening disease, accidents, loss. 
  • Neglect can also be a major risk factor where the individual develops issues related to abandonment and lack of self-esteem due to internalising the experience. 
  • Family hsi order of dependent personality disorder or other anxiety disorders leading may experts to believe that there are genetic and environmental risk factors for this disorder. 
  • Cultural norms that might lead to behaviours related to passibibnity and politeness with extreme reliance on authority. 
  • Family traits such as family interactions that highlight submissiveness and issues related to insecurities due to unstable family environments. 
  • Parenting styles include permissive parenting as well as having overprotective or authoritarian parents

The disorder has also been observed to have high comorbidity with the following disorders:

  • anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder. 
  • avoidant personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)
  • depression
  • substance use disorders
  • phobias

This commodity is often due to the disorder not being treated at all or not being treated effectively.

What are the treatment options for dependent personality disorder?

Here are some treatment options for people who have been affected by Dependent personality disorder:

Psychotherapy treatment

Cognitive Behavioural therapy that can help you develop newer and healthier ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. This form of therapy works to restructure your beliefs and cognitive patterns so as to help you see yourself and the world in a more realistic and balanced way. 

This form of treatment with the help of your therapist can also help you improve your self-confidence, self esteem, and help you become more assertive and self-reliant while also seeking out ways to learn and live out healthy relationships by setting healthy boundaries. 


At the moment there is no pharmacological treatment for Dependent personality disorder however, if your disorder is causing symptoms of depression or anxiety, your doctor might prescribe you medication to handle or manage the symptoms of these disorders. 

Oftentimes these medications first help with physical symptoms and fater four-five weeks there might be improvement in your psychological symptoms. 

Medication is most effective when taken continuously, as prescribed by the doctor and in conjunction with psychotherapy.

You might experience side effects of these medications and what you can do for yourself is to take to your doctor about these symptoms and get your dosage corrected and continue treatment. 


Another form of treatment is developing an awareness and educated stance on how your disorder affects you and your life.  

Learning more about dependent personality disorder can help you and your loved ones understand what you require to live healthy lives as well as help you make changes in your life that allow you to live a more balanced life. 

Oftentimes this education is done by your therapist but you can also educate yourself by learning about the disorder from verified sources. 


Another form of intervention for this disorder includes seeking out support from support groups for people who have this disorder. 

In support groups you learn how to cope as well as allow you to share experiences and ways you can bring about changes in your lifestyle to help manage this disorder.

In terms of prognosis or outcome of treatments for this disorder, people with Dependent personality disorder can live an emotionally healthy life along with healthy relationships provided that their treatment is done efficiently, they learn and apply the skills required to cope with the disorder, 

People who don’t get treatment might be at risk to develop depression as well as anxiety and at the same time might even develop substance use disorders or remain in unhealthy and abusive relationships. 


This blog post has explored what Dependent Personality Disorder is and what are the diagnostic criteria of this disorder according to the DSM-5. 

We have also explored what are the risk factors, prevalence rates, and the treatment options and outlook for people who have this disorder. 

FAQ related to Dependent personality disorder

What is an example of dependent personality disorder?

An example of how dependent personality disorder affects a person’s life include:

A person with this disorder might avoid disagreeing with their coworkers in the workplace, or put forward their ideas for fear of losing the support of their teammates.

A person with DPD might also be reluctant to make decisions without heavy assurances from other people- they will typically engage in seeking reassurances and approval of other people before making a decision. 

What are dependent behaviours?

Individuals diagnosed with dependent personality tend to exhibit the following behaviours:

  • Extremely reliant on other people to make decisions, even to do anything which makes it atypical or unhealthy. 
  • They also tend to be clingy and needy
  • They also tend to be submissive and often try to convince or behave in ways that cause other people to take care of them. 
  • They might also be afraid to be alone.

Can anxiety cause personality disorder?

There is a possibility that anxiety can be present in people who have personality disorders. Various anxiety disorders can be comorbid with personality disorders which can make living with the conditions extremely difficult however there is limited research done to confirm whether anxiety is the cause of the personality disorder or not. 

Can DPD be cured?

Dependent personality disorder, like any personality disorder, cannot be cured however, with therapy treatments, the symptoms of Dependent personality disorder can be managed and people can lead normal and fulfilling lives. 


American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

Dependent Personality Disorder. ClevelandClinic. Retrieved on 23rd December 2021.

Dependent Personality. Good Therapy. Retrieved on 23rd December 2021.

Khan. A. Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD). Healthline. Retrieved on 23rd December 2021.

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