• Nov 22, 2021
Dependent personality disorder: symptoms, causes and treatment

In our day to day we talk a lot about what personality is, about people who have a personality strong or over others that "have no personality", but are we using the term personality in a correct? We must differentiate between personality, temperament (biological, innate and influencing the personality) and character (all learned and environmental psychosocial factors that influence personality).

Therefore, the personality is the stable set of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that characterizes people differently from each other, and these are stable over time and circumstances. In general, we could say that all personalities fall into 8 groups, and one of them could be a dependent type personality. Do you want to know when this personality type turns into a personality disorder? In this online Psychology article, we explain what the Dependent personality disorder: symptoms, causes, and treatment.

You may also like: Personality disorders: symptoms and treatment


  1. What is a personality disorder
  2. What is dependent personality disorder
  3. Symptoms of dependent personality disorder
  4. Causes of dependent personality disorder
  5. Treatment of dependent personality disorder
  6. Differential diagnosis of dependent personality disorder

What is a personality disorder.

To speak of personality disorder, we must understand that it is altered when we observe that people react to responsibilities inflexibly, or when their perceptions and behaviors lead to personal distress or decreased opportunities to learn and growing up.

It is important to understand that personality disorders show a permanent and inflexible pattern from the internal experience of behavior, where the person departs markedly from the expectations of the subjective culture. Personality disorders begin in adolescence or early adulthood, it is stable over time and involves discomfort or prejudice for the individual or those around him.

What is dependent personality disorder.

According to the DSM-V[1], dependent personality disorder is understood as the overbearing and overbearing need of a person to be cared for, which leads to submissive behavior and exaggerated attachment. It also carries an excessive fear of separation, which begins in early adulthood and spreads in different contexts.

In order to identify it, it is important to know the characteristics of dependent personality disorder and what behaviors the people who suffer from it have. We see them below:

  • It is difficult for you to make everyday decisions without the advice and undue reassurance of other people.
  • You need others to take responsibility in most of the important areas of your life.
  • Have difficulty expressing disagreement with others, for fear of losing their support or approval.
  • Have difficulty starting projects or doing things on their own, due to a lack of confidence in one's judgment or ability and not due to a lack of motivation or energy.
  • Goes too far to gain acceptance and support of others, to the point of voluntarily doing things that you dislike.
  • You feel uncomfortable or helpless when you are alone, out of exaggerated fear of being unable to take care of himself.
  • When a close relationship ends, he urgently looks for another relationship to be cared for and supported.
  • Feel a unrealistic concern for fear of being abandoned and have to take care of yourself.

Symptoms of dependent personality disorder.

The main symptoms of dependent personality disorder (PDD) are usually the following:

  • Pessimism.
  • Unsafety in themselves.
  • Tendency to minimize your capabilities and its values.
  • They can constantly refer to themselves as stupid.
  • They take criticism and disapproval as evidence of its worthlessness.
  • They lose faith in themselves.
  • They seek overprotection and be dominated by others.
  • Work activity may be impaired if independent initiative is required.
  • Avoid the positions of responsibility.
  • They experience anxiety when making decisions. For these cases, in this article, we tell you how to make difficult decisions in life.
  • The social relationships tend to be limited to few people on whom the subject is dependent.
  • High risk of suffering from a mood disorder, anxiety disorder or maladaptive disorders. Discover the different types of anxiety that exist, their symptoms and differences.
  • Is it so constantly on alert and nervous about what will happen.
  • Low self-esteem: They constantly need the approval of others and are always waiting for others to give them recognition. In this article you will see how to help a person with low self-esteem psychologically.
  • A lot difficulty tolerating psychic pain or physical they are trying to avoid.
Dependent Personality Disorder: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment - Symptoms Of Dependent Personality Disorder

Causes of dependent personality disorder.

In speaking about the principles of personality and associated disorders, Millon[2] remarks that personality develops from interaction between genetic and environmental factors. If we consider the above, the causes of dependent personality disorder are fruit of the imbalance of the systems that make it up, neither being one nor the other determining factor.

In addition, it is also important to note that the cause of a personality disorder is independent of the level of education and socioeconomic status.

Treatment of dependent personality disorder.

The main treatment for dependent personality disorder is cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, that is, the one that focuses attention on erroneous beliefs and that seeks to modify them, considering that it will involve emotional and behavioral changes.

This therapy uses tools from behaviorism, such as thought stop and cognitivism, problem solving and thought control. In this article you will find more information about what is behaviorism in psychology.

Next, we show you what are the basic pillars of the cognitive behavioral psychotherapy:

  • Promote the observation of negative automatic thoughts.
  • Identify the irrational beliefs that hold negative automatic thoughts.
  • Reject irrational beliefs, replacing them with more useful and adaptive ones.

In some cases, the combination of psychotherapy with biological treatments, such as psychotropic drugs, but they should not be treated only with these, but rather they should be an accompaniment that enhances advances in psychotherapy.

In the case of administering psychotropic drugs for dependent personality disorder, they may be used benzodiazepines, or SSRI antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, tricyclics or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors i noradrenaline, depending on the specific case.

Dependent Personality Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment - Dependent Personality Disorder Treatment

Differential diagnosis of dependent personality disorder.

Dependent personality disorder must be differentiated from dependence that arises as consequence of Axis I disorders, such as mood disorders, anxiety for agoraphobia and other anxiety disorders.

Although many personality disorders are characterized by dependency traits, dependent personality disorder can be distinguished by a predominance of submission behavior, the adhesion and the reactivity on the person.

Differences with borderline personality disorder

Although similar symptoms are manifested, there are aspects that allow differentiating the dependent personality disorder from the Borderline personality disorder. We see them below:

  • Dependent personality disorder reacts to abandonment with increased meekness and submission, urgent search for a replacement relationship that provides care and support.
  • Borderline personality disorder reacts with feelings of emptiness, and emotionally, with anger and making demands, showing a more unstable and intense pattern of relationships.

Differences with histrionic personality disorder

Although they both experience a great need for reassurance and approval and may seem childish and clingy, the basis of the disorder Dependent personality is self-cancellation and docile behavior, while in histrionic disorder of the personality manifests itself through extravagance with active demands for attention.

In this article you will find more information about the Histrionic Personality Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.

Differences from avoidant personality disorder

Both avoidant personality disorder and dependent personality disorder are characterized by feelings of inferiority, hypersensitivity to criticism, and need for reaffirmation. The main differences between them are:

  • Dependent personality disorder shows a pattern of search and maintenance of contacts with the people important to them.
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder avoids and stays out of relationshipsas they suffer from a strong fear of humiliation and rejection that causes them to isolate themselves until they are sure of being accepted.

Find out everything you need to know about him Avoidant Personality Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, Features, and Treatment in this article.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Dependent personality disorder: symptoms, causes and treatment, we recommend that you enter our category of Clinical psychology.


  1. American psychiatric association, (2014). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM - 5. Madrid Spain. Editorial medica panamericana.
  2. Millon, T. AND. (1997). The Millon inventories: Clinical and personality assessment. The Guilford Press.


  • Belloch, A., Sandín, B., Ramos, F., (2009). Manual of Psychopathology, Volume II. Madrid. McGraw Hill / Interamericana de España, S.A.U.
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