Living With Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)

Many people seek psychological help because, according to them, they experience feelings of anxiety and depression. However, in certain cases, they may be suffering from dependent personality disorder(DPD). Find out about this condition here.
Living With Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 04 April, 2023

When we talk about dependent people, we sometimes reinforce certain biases and myths. In fact, it’s common to visualize these people as weak beings, without character, who live their lives perpetually anchored to others. Moreover, we tend to associate this pattern of behavior with the female gender.

However, dependent personality disorder (DPD) also appears in many men. Indeed, it’s interesting to know that this part of the population, when exhibiting anxious and depressive characteristics, can present this condition originally described by Sigmund Freud.

These captives of absolute defenselessness permanently suffer. They tend to repeat verbalizations such as “I can’t deal with that”, “I feel alone”, “Nobody loves me” or “I don’t know what to do with my life”. However, they need our understanding not criticism. As a matter of fact, understanding the anatomy of this type of disorder may be more important than you might think.

Dependent personality disorder responds really well to psychological therapy. The problem is that it’s often not properly diagnosed. That’s because only the depressive or anxiety disorder is treated.

Woman lying on a piece of furniture representing what it is like to live with dependent personality disorder
Those with dependent personality disorder crave constant reinforcement. They rarely express disagreement or their opinion about anything.

Living with dependent personality disorder

There are certain psychiatric conditions that are rather diffuse.  For example, mental health problems have common origins and repeated nuances. Furthermore , they often contain comorbid characteristics. This means that sufferers tend to exhibit two or more psychological disorders.

For instance, someone with a fierce fear of abandonment who feels unable to be alone may be mistaken as suffering from borderline personality disorder. However, living with dependent personality disorder means being unable to function alone. It also involves being incapable of making any decisions for themselves and always having to count on someone else’s supervision and help.

The University of Padua (Italy) claims that this condition appears in early adulthood and completely conditions the individual’s social functioning. It’s a really debilitating disorder. That said, it responds particularly well to psychological therapy. Indeed, change is possible, as long as an adequate diagnosis is carried out. Let’s see what life is like for sufferers.

People with DPD are anchored to their parents or partners at all times. They can’t make decisions for themselves.

1. Constant and self-destructive attachment behaviors

Some people can present dependent behaviors yet possess basic functionality. But, living with dependent personality disorder means being completely unable to fend for themselves on a psychosocial level. They tend to exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Their worst fear is being left alone or abandoned.
  • They feed the self-perception that they can’t function without the help of others.
  • They show persistent submissive and attachment-type behaviors. This might be with partners, family, or friends.
  • They don’t understand life without the closeness of their parents or partners. In fact, they always have a series of figures in their lives to reinforce their shortcomings and fears and nourish their needs.

It’s important to point out that, while these individuals need the persistent attachment to figures close to them, they suffer for being this way. Indeed, their behavior and way of being don’t satisfy them and they know and understand that it causes them persistent anguish.

2. Corrosive indecision

“What career or university degree should I take?” “Should I go to that job interview ?” “What if I make a mistake by making that decision?” “Should I take the car to the workshop or wait a little longer?” “What should I say to them after what happened yesterday?” Living with dependent personality disorder means being trapped in permanent indecision.

As a matter of fact, sufferers doubt everything. Moreover, almost anything arouses fear and insecurity in them and they require the advice of others to act. It doesn’t matter whether the topics are trivial or important. They always ask those close to them for support. It’s almost like they’re asking to be rescued from life or death. In addition, the people around them usually suffer great wear and tear in the face of this kind of responsibility.

3. Living with docility and zero initiative

Can you imagine an existence in which you never give your opinion so as not to contradict anyone? Could you be non-judgmental and show approval for reasoning that goes against your values? This is what it’s like to live with dependent personality disorder.

Sufferers of DPD give in, imitate, and absorb themselves in others in order to avoid loneliness. They say yes to everything, letting the foundations of their dignity fall to pieces. They don’t stand up for their needs or their rights and are afraid to even ask for help when they need it. That’s because they don’t want to annoy or irritate anyone.

Another behavior in the DNA of this disorder is a complete lack of initiative. Far from changing a situation that’s harmful or counterproductive, the sufferer gets carried away without acting. Indeed, fear and a lack of self-confidence are two nuclear axes of DPD.

Personality disorders are really complex amalgams. They include everything from learned habits and genetic components to adverse childhood experiences. In the case of dependent personality disorder, it originates in childhood or adolescence.

Woman in psychological therapy receiving support from the specialist to deal with what it is like to live with dependent personality disorder
Dependent personality disorders nurture the self-perception of not being able to act without the support of others.

Treatment of dependent personality disorder (DPD)

It’s estimated that the prevalence of this disorder in the general population isn’t quite one percent. Therefore, it’s not too widespread. However, diagnosis is essential. That’s because this absolute fear of loneliness and sick need for attachment can often hide behind a recurring depression or anxiety disorder.

One positive fact concerning dependent personality disorder is that it responds well to cognitive behavioral therapy. It has good success rates and can give the sufferer the change they need. In fact, CBT makes it easier for them to deactivate their distorted thought patterns and replace them with healthier kinds.

Similarly, effective tools can be offered to sufferers to increase their autonomy, self-confidence, and ability to make their own decisions. On the other hand, the condition often also requires a pharmacological approach for the symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, it’s psychological therapy that always addresses the real root of the problem.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.