Dependent Personality Disorder

  • Definition

    Dependent personality disorder is characterized by dependent and submissive behavior. The person often defers the majority or all decision-making to someone else. People with this type of personality disorder are not aware that their thoughts and behaviors are inappropriate.
  • Causes

    It is not clear what causes personality disorders, but it is likely a combination of genetic factors and a person's environment.
    The Central Nervous System
    Brain face skull
    A personality disorder is most likely a combination of chemical or electrical imbalances in the brain and a reaction to traumatic personal experiences.
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  • Risk Factors

    Dependent personality disorder is more common in women and in early adulthood. Other factors that may increase your chance of developing dependent personality disorder include:
    • Early childhood parental loss
    • Child abuse or neglect
    • Chronic physical illness during childhood
    Other associated psychological problems can include:
  • Symptoms

    Dependent personality disorder may cause:
    • Irrational fear
    • Relying on others for guidance, decision-making, reassurance, and advice
    • Excessive sensitivity to criticism
    • A strong fear of rejection
    • Perception of oneself as powerless
    • Low self-confidence
  • Diagnosis

    You will likely be referred to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional. You will be asked about your symptoms. A mental and medical health history will be taken. A diagnosis will be made after a complete psychiatric assessment that rules out other disorders.
  • Treatment

    Treatment includes counseling, medication, and therapy. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
    Counseling may be beneficial for people with dependent personality disorder. Counseling sessions focus on learning how to manage your anxiety and be more assertive.
    Medications may be prescribed to treat other psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression.
    Other Treatments
    Other treatments, such as cognitive behavioral or group therapy can help you manage symptoms.
  • Prevention

    There are no current guidelines to prevent dependent personality disorder.

    Mental Health America

    National Institute of Mental Health


    Canadian Mental Health Association

    Canadian Psychiatric Association


    Dependent personality disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed December 15, 2011. Updated July 22, 2013.

    Personality disorders. Mental Health America website. Available at: Accessed July 22, 2013.

    Revision Information

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