Dependent personality disorder

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Dependent personality disorder is a mental condition in which people depend too much on others to meet their emotional and physical needs.


Causes of dependent personality disorder are unknown. The disorder usually begins in childhood. 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 very upset by separation and loss. They may go to great lengths, even suffering abuse, to stay in a relationship.

Symptoms of dependent personality disorder may include:

  • Avoiding being alone
  • Avoiding personal responsibility
  • Becoming easily hurt by criticism or disapproval
  • Becoming overly focused on fears of being abandoned
  • Becoming very passive in relationships
  • Feeling very upset or helpless when relationships end
  • Having difficulty making decisions without support from others
  • Having problems expressing disagreements with others

Exams and Tests

Dependent personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation. The health care provider will consider how long and how severe the person's symptoms are.


Talk therapy is considered to be the most effective treatment. The aim is to help people with this condition make more independent choices in life. Medicines may help treat other mental conditions, such as anxiety or depression, which occur along with this disorder.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Improvements are usually seen only with long-term therapy.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Depression
  • Increased likelihood of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse

When to Contact a Medical Professional

See your health care provider or a mental health professional if you or your child has symptoms of dependent personality disorder.


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.

Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 39.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/31/2014
  • Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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