Dependent personality disorder
Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a personality disorder that is characterised by a pervasive psychological dependence on other people. The difference between a 'dependent personality' and a 'dependent personality disorder' is somewhat subjective, which makes a diagnosis sensitive to cultural influences such as gender role expectations.
Diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV-TR)
The DSM-IV-TR, a widely used manual for diagnosing mental disorders (see also:DSM cautionary statement), defines dependent personality disorder as a "pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others
2. needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life
3. has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval ([this does not] include realistic fears of retribution)
4. has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his or her own (because of a lack of self-confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack of motivation or energy)
5. goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant
6. feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for himself or herself
7. urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends
8. is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of himself or herself"
Problems caused by dependence
Because of their high need for approval, people who are afflicted with DPD try hard to please others. They can get frustrated because they feel they are 'forced' to do things that they do not want to do, or because they feel they cannot express their feelings. Furthermore, their clinging behaviour can make close relationships difficult to establish and maintain. When these relationships end, a person with DPD will feel desperate and unable to take care of herself/himself. People with DPD often have a very low self-esteem and are vulnerable to other mental disorders, especially depression and anxiety disorders.
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