Dependent Personality Disorder

By: Lauren Zoneraich

Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is characterized by an overdependence on others to feel secure and function. A personality disorder is defined by the possession of an unhealthy and unwavering way of thinking, functioning, and behaving. People with personality disorders often experience difficulty in relationships, school, work, and social situations because their unhealthy cognitions often lead to problematic behaviors that may upset or bother people in their life.

For those with DPD, it feels impossible to function without the help and support of others. This overwhelming reliance on others for emotional and physical security causes an intense fear of abandonment, often leading to anxious behaviors that partners or friends may describe as “needy” or “clingy.” Anxious behaviors include being overly passive or submissive, being unable to disagree with others, and tolerating poor treatment by others. People with DPD would rather stay in a bad relationship than be by themselves. When relationships end, people with DPD may feel depressed. Immediately, they may begin searching for new relationships, as the thought of being alone is unfathomable.

People with Dependent Personality Disorder often lack self-confidence and self-efficacy. As a result, they cannot make decisions, even small decisions, without the approval or validation of others, nor start projects on their own.

There are no direct causes for DPD, but there are some risk factors that may contribute to its development. These risk factors include traumatic abandonment during childhood, a family history of personality disorders, a family history of anxiety or depression, and chronic childhood illness. Also, growing up with withdrawn, abusive, or overly- controlling parents is a risk factor for DPD.

Psychotherapy can help one address the symptoms of DPD, specifically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and psychodynamic therapy. CBT can help one learn to reframe one’s cognitions, while psychodynamic therapy can help one become conscious of the roots of one’s personality disorder.

If you or someone you know is struggling with relationships, self-esteem, or daily functioning, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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