Dependent personality disorder (DPD) falls under a group of mental health disorders classified as anxious personality disorder. The typical features of DPD include excessive feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and fear. Individuals with DPD often complain of feeling helpless, subservient and a feeling of doom when left alone. There is a constant need for these individuals to be comforted and given reassurance that everything will be fine; DPD individual rarely can make any type of decision.
DPD is not rare disorder and estimates indicate that at least three to five individuals out of every 100 people have varying degree of DPD. DPD is common in both men and women and usually starts off in teenager years and then peaks at middle age.
Individuals with DPD are emotionally dependent on others and spend a large amount of time trying to please others in order to maintain friendship. The individuals often come across as needy, very submissive, have a clinging behavior, and are terrified of separation. These people cannot make even the simplest decision; usually avoid responsibility or any type of job that requires independent thought or performance.
When the individual with DPD is alone, he or she feels intense sense of abandonment and helplessness. Even a simple break in relationship is deemed devastating. The individual can never take criticism and often becomes hysterical. Other features of DPD individuals include constant pessimism, lack of self-confidence and a belief that they will not make it alone. To avoid losing support from friends, they never disagree, even if they are abused or badly treated. The dependency on others is so intense that they often place the need of others above theirs and tend to very naive in all matters of life. Individuals with DPD are gullible and thought of as being stupid.
Like most disorders in psychiatry, the cause of DPD is unknown and is thought to be related to overprotective or dictatorial parenting style. The diagnosis of DPD is based on interviews and various psychiatric assessment tools.
Even after diagnosis, the majority of individuals with DPD do not seek treatment. Most only seek treatment after there has been a physical problem or their behavior has been overwhelming for family or friends. Most individuals are so naïve about their illness that they have no clue that their behavior is abnormal.
The mainstay of therapy for DPD individual is psychotherapy, which helps them become more independent and active. Short-term therapy can help achieve self-confidence and improve self-esteem. However, when therapy is continued often the individual becomes dependent on the therapist. Individuals who become depressed or anxious may need short-term medications but monitoring is required, as these individual also tend to become dependent on medications and abuse them.
Individuals with DPD who do not seek treatment are at a high risk for developing depression, phobia, substance abuse, and anxiety. They are also at great risk of being physically and emotional abused by others, as they are willing to do anything to maintain their relationship, which gives them support.
Mild cases of DPD often improve with psychotherapy but severe cases have a poor prognosis. Many of these individuals get into relationships where they are abused and are often physically and mentally harmed.