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Dependent Personality Disorder: What It Is & How to Read the Signs

Do you just hate being alone and by yourself? Dependent personality disorder is far more common that you think. Use these symptoms & signs to recognize it.

Dependent Personality Disorder DPD

These days we’re hearing more and more about mental health. This is a good thing. It means the stigma is being broken down and that people feel more comfortable coming forward and asking for help, discussing how they feel. Back in the day, dependent personality disorder and other mental issues were a subject that people only ever whispered about. However, the increase in mental health conditions also shows that we’re also living in stressful times. 

When you hear the term ‘personality disorder’ you might be confused as to what that actually is. A personality disorder is a type of mental health issue. We usually think of depression, anxiety, OCD and PTSD only, but the list actually goes far beyond that. A person with a personality disorder has a very fixed way of seeing the world. And this often affects how they relate to other people. 

Dependent personality disorder falls into that category. 

[Read: Emotional dependency and signs you’re overly dependent on someone]

What is dependent personality disorder?

Dependent personality disorder is a type of anxiety and it shows itself in a desperate need to not be alone.

A person with this condition needs to be around other people all the time. And when they’re left alone, they develop anxiety and feel extremely insecure. As a result, they need a large amount of reassurance to be able to go about the rest of their day. 

What usually causes the dependent personality disorder?

Dependent personality disorder can happen to anyone. But it tends to show itself in early adulthood, or as we start to meet people and form relationships with them. There are also a few risk factors or potential causes of dependent personality disorder too. These can vary from person to person but generally include:

#1 An abusive childhood or having been neglected in early life

#2 An abusive relationship 

#3 Parents who were very strict or overprotective

#4 Anxiety issues running in the family 

#5 Having been abandoned in some form in the past, either by parents or in a relationship 

[Read: How to be emotionally independent and stop relying on others for your happiness]

Why you should always seek help

It’s worth noting the potential causes. But it’s also important to remember that everyone is unique. The cause for dependent personality disorder doesn’t necessarily have to be on that list. 

At the same time, this is a condition which has varying degrees of seriousness. But if you feel anxious when you’re alone and you really need reassurance much of the time to be able to go out about the rest of your day, it’s something you need to reach out and get some help for. 

Nobody has to deal with problems such as this alone. You shouldn’t remain quiet about it either – we all need to be more vocal about our mental health. We’re very open about our physical health *most of the time*, so why aren’t we the same about our mental health? We all have mental health, after all! Sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s not great, other times it’s fine. [Read: How to be comfortable with yourself – A guide to not giving a f*ck]

What are the symptoms and signs to look out for?

There are no specific traits of people with dependent personality disorder because this isn’t something which develops in a specific “type” of person – it can happen to anyone.

However, there are some symptoms that occur. And by looking out for them, you can help yourself by reaching out for assistance, or maybe help someone close to you who is showing many of these signs. 

#1 Acting in a submissive way a lot of the time

#2 Not being able to make decisions alone and asking others to help come to a decision

#3 A need for constant reassurance

#4 Feelings can easily be hurt by a comment or someone not agreeing with you

#5 Feeling very anxious and even nervous when you’re left on your own

#6 Having an irrational fear of being rejected in some way

#7 Feeling hopeless when friends are too busy to spend time with you, or when you have an argument or disagreement with someone close to you

#8 A general sense of nervousness much of the time

A person with dependent personality disorder may experience panic attacks occasionally and generally lives in a state of fear. They may have a sense of foreboding in the pit of their stomach, like something is about to go wrong but they can’t quite put their finger on what it is.

It’s a really terrible way to live, because you don’t have to live in fear. For that reason, reaching out for help is vital if you want to free yourself of this terrible problem. [Read: How to let go of your fear of being alone and find peace again]

Relationships and dependent personality disorder

It’s not hard to see why a person with dependent personality disorder may struggle with relationships. There has to be a lot of open and honest communication between partners. But even then, it’s hard for the other person to constantly give reassurance.

People can’t be together all the time, it’s simply not healthy. This is why many people who struggle with this disorder often find that their relationships don’t last too long. That is, unless they meet a partner who is very understanding and determined to help them through the issue. In order for that to happen, the person with the disorder has to be open to receiving help and really be able to put the effort in. [Read: 15 signs of a taker in a relationship – Are you a giver or a taker?]

The Cinderella dependent personality disorder

A particular issue with relationships is Cinderella dependent personality disorder. 

A person struggling with this type of disorder often feels the need to be saved and they can’t really do a lot for themselves. They need others to direct them and to give them assistance, almost like Cinderella is “saved” by Prince Charming in the story. This can come down to a fear of independence but of course, it goes far deeper than that.

A person with the Cinderella version of the condition has either been told repeatedly in the past that they can’t do something, they may have had overbearing parents who were extremely overprotective, or they may have been through a situation in earlier life which caused them to “fail” in a big way. As a result, they place the responsibility of their decisions and their life to a large degree, on other people. This can often be a romantic partner. [Read: How to learn to stand on your own two feet when you’ve always been codependent]

Whatever version of dependent personality disorder a person has, it’s not the best grounding for a relationship. People need space to be alone in relationships and it allows them to grow individually and become a better partner. I’ve said it once already and I’ll no doubt say it again – reaching out for help is the only way to turn the situation around. [Read: How to give space in a relationship without drifting apart]

How to manage dependent personality disorder

The most important thing to mention is that your future doesn’t have to be like your past. Whatever happened in the past to make you this fearful of being alone, it’s not going to happen again. You are an independent person who is more than capable of spending time alone and making your own decisions. The more you try it, the more you might actually like spending time in your own company!

In order to reach that point, what do you need to do? Yes, again, you need to reach out for help. Your doctor will be able to look at your symptoms and work out whether you do indeed have dependent personality disorder or not. If so, they can either help you with a variety of options.

Psychotherapy and DPD

Psychotherapy is one of the options that has been shown to work very well. This is a type of therapy which helps to build up your self-esteem. It shows you how to build healthy and strong relationships with those around you and with yourself. 

This is sometimes used in conjunction with medications to help treat anxiety, but these aren’t usually given as a first option. Your doctor will probably want you to try therapy first and try and kick dependent personality disorder on your own steam, rather than relying upon medications. However, the option is there. [Read: How to spot codependent traits very early on using the views of a therapist]

The good news is that dependent personality disorder, or DPD as you’ll often see it shortened to, can be managed very effectively.

As long as you reach out for help and focus on determination to beat it, you can alleviate your symptoms and work to build up your confidence. Whilst there might not be a solid and lasting cure, there are many techniques you can use to stop it from coming back and to stop flare ups over the long-term.

[Read: How to get over the feeling of being unwanted and start feeling desired again]

Dependent personality disorder is not something to just ignore or assume it’s going to go away. It can severely limit your happiness in life and your ability to have strong and lasting relationships with other people. Be brave and reach out for help – it will be the strongest thing you’ll ever do and of course, the best. 

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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