For most of us, our teen years are simply the time between childhood and adulthood. We can’t wait until we are adults and can make our own decisions and set our own path. We long for independence.
But for some of us, we never truly become independent, fully functioning adults. Rather we develop and live with Dependent Personality Disorder.
What is it? Dependent personality disorder is a long-term condition in which people depend too much on others to meet their emotional and physical needs. They live with debilitating feelings of nervousness and fear and are also plagued by helplessness, submissiveness, a need to be taken care of and for constant reassurance, and an inability to make decisions. In short, they need to be taken care of and fear being abandoned or separated from individuals in their life. As a result they often engage in submissive behaviors which causes other to become their care givers. From outside the relationship it looks ‘clingy’ and needy.
Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder
Dependent personality disorder is characterized by overwhelming fear that leads to “clinging behavior”. It can be diagnosed in early adulthood. It includes a majority of the following:
- Avoids being alone; will tolerate abuse to avoid aloneness
- Unable to make everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others
- Needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life
- Has difficulty expressing disagreement with others; over-sensitive to criticism
- Pessimism and lack of self-confidence, including belief in their personal inability to take care of themselves
- Has difficulty doing things alone, without ongoing reassurances
- Intense fear of abandonment; unable to be without a primary relationship,
- Urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends
- Goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of offering to do unpleasant things
- Preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of him or herself
- Lives in fantasy and remain naïve
Dependent Personality Disorder is only diagnosed in adults. It is determined by a psychological evaluation in concert with an evaluation of the duration and severity of the symptoms. Although it won’t be in the DSM-V, it is one of the most commonly diagnosed personality disorders.
Generally, people with this disorder do not seek treatment for it, but rather for a problem they’re experiencing. The problem usually arises because of one or more of their symptoms affecting their ability to function in a way they deem normal and healthy. They may seek help for depression or anxiety, common co-occurrences with this disorder. Or they may seek help for substance abuse problems which also co-occur in alarming numbers.
If these co-occurring symptoms are serious, a physician may treat the patient with anti-depressant medications which also alleviate anxiety.
Treatment will include some form of talk therapy. Together all these approaches will help alleviate the symptoms, but at this time, the disorder is never ‘cured’. Rather the symptoms are managed and controlled, usually decreasing with age.
Ironically it is the very dependence on others that pushes people away. We get burned out taking care of someone who is so reliant on us. Or, the dependent person will attach themselves to an abusive partner who will affirm their belief in their inability to make decisions and to live without someone else controlling everything. It is logical to see how people with this disorder will stay in highly abusive situations, rather than risk being on their own – the responsibility is simply overwhelming.
How about you? Do you know someone like this? Met someone like this? Have you ever felt sorry for someone married to a control freak who told them when to go to the bathroom? Have you considered that this may be the relationship the more passive or dependent partner needs?
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