Dependent Personality Disorder

A person with dependent personality disorder (DPD) has an excessive need to be taken care of, resulting in submissive and clingy behavior and separation anxiety. They may struggle to make simple judgments. However, someone with a dependent personality may still gain self-confidence and self-reliance with assistance.

Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Studies indicate that 10% or so of individuals suffer from a personality disorder. Only 1% of adults satisfy the requirements for DPD, which often affects more females than males.

Experts in mental health are still uncertain as to what causes DPD. Some believed causes include development, environment, and genetics. Further, DPD is more prevalent among persons with specific life circumstances, such as relationship abuse, childhood trauma, and a family history of DPD.

There are many signs and symptoms of dependent personality disorder, including:

  • Avoidance of taking accountability;
  • Difficulty being alone;
  • Fear of abandonment and a sense of helplessness when relationships end;
  • Oversensitivity to criticism;
  • Lack of optimism and confidence;
  • Trouble making everyday decisions.

A physician will look for five of the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria to make a DPD diagnosis. These consist of the following:

  • Fear of abandonment that is excessive and unfounded;
  • Feeling anxious or powerless when alone;
  • Unable to handle daily obligations without assistance;
  • Problems with speaking up because of concern over losing support or acceptance;
  • A strong desire to get help from others, even if it means making unpleasant decisions;
  • Difficulty making day-to-day decisions without assistance from or assurance from others;
  • A lack of self-confidence or decision-making skills that prevents one from starting or finishing tasks;
  • The need to find a new connection to offer comfort and acceptance after a close relationship ends.

Additionally, doctors perform a physical examination to determine whether symptoms might come from another ailment. Doctors will also ask about your previous mental health history. Lastly, your disposition, any further mental health conditions, and any problems with substance misuse may be discussed when a doctor assesses you.


For DPD, the DSM-5 does not include any available treatments. However, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has shown promising results. Having healthy coping strategies is one result of undergoing CBT. It also helps increase your self-confidence, where you will strive to increase your activity level and independence. Your doctor will also discuss how to cultivate more fulfilling relationships. In this way, your self-esteem will hopefully improve and assist in overcoming some symptoms of DPD.

Your doctor may recommend medication if your DPD results in anxiety or sadness. They can prescribe antidepressants like fluoxetine and sedatives like alprazolam. 

Presently, DPD is unpreventable. However, therapy can assist those susceptible to the illness in learning how to avoid or deal with challenging circumstances.

According to certain studies, healthy childhood interactions may help prevent a child from developing DPD in the future.

People who don't receive therapy may be at risk for anxiety and depression. They may overuse drugs or alcohol and experience difficulties like substance abuse. Finally, they are more likely to continue in unhealthy or violent relationships without treatment.



American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).


Fariba KA, Gupta V, Kass E. Personality Disorder. [Updated 2022 Apr 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:


Cleveland Clinic (2022). Dependent Personality Disorders. Retrieved October 22, 2022, from

Last Updated: February 21, 2024