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Dependent personality disorder

Alternative names

Dependent personality disorder is a chronic condition involving over-reliance on others to meet emotional and physical needs.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of this disorder is unknown. It usually begins in early adulthood.


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

Signs and tests

Some of the common signs of dependent personality disorder include:

  • Inability to make decisions
  • Avoids personal responsibility
  • Avoids being alone
  • Feels devastated or helpless when relationships end
  • Unable to meet ordinary demands of life
  • Preoccupied with fears of being abandoned
  • Easily hurt by criticism or disapproval
  • Extremely passive to other people


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

Expectations (prognosis)

Improvements are usually seen only with long-term therapy.


  • May suffer from depression
  • May abuse alcohol or drugs
  • 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 suggestive of dependent personality disorder.

Update Date: 1/25/2003

David Taylor, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT