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Dependent personality disorder


Dependent personality disorder is a long-term (chronic) condition in which people depend too much on others to meet their emotional and physical needs.

Alternative Names

Personality disorder - dependent

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Dependent personality disorder usually begins in childhood. However, the cause of this disorder is unknown. It is one of the most common personality disorders, and is equally common in men and women.


People with this disorder do not trust their own ability to make decisions. They may be devastated by separation and loss. They may go to great lengths, even suffering abuse, to stay in a relationship.

Signs and tests

A person with dependent personality disorder may:

  • Have difficulty making decisions without reassurance from others
  • Have problems expressing disagreements with others
  • Avoid personal responsibility
  • Avoid being alone
  • Feel devastated or helpless when relationships end
  • Be unable to meet ordinary demands of life
  • Become preoccupied with fears of being abandoned
  • Be easily hurt by criticism or disapproval
  • Be extremely passive in relations with other people


There is no specific treatment for this disorder. Psychotherapy may be useful in gradually helping the person make more independent choices in life. Medication may also be helpful in treating any other underlying conditions.

Expectations (prognosis)

Improvements are usually seen only with long-term therapy.


  • Depression
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • May be susceptible to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider or a mental health professional if you or your adolescent has symptoms of dependent personality disorder.


Young JQ. Dependent personality disorder. In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2008: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.

Review Date: 10/17/2008
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Timothy A. Rogge, MD, private practice in Psychiatry, Kirkland, Washington. Also reviewed byDavid Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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