Welcome to day 17 in my #Write31Days challenge on mental health. Today, I’m continuing to write about personality disorders in cluster C. I’ll focus on dependent personality disorder (DPD). When I was about eighteen, I suspected I might have some features of this condition. (Then again, I suspected I was diagnosable with about half the DSM at the time.) I still relate to it, but it’s never been suggested that I have DPD.
Dependent personality disorder is characterized by a pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of. This leads to submissive and clingy behavior and fear of separation. People with DPD meet at least five of the following criteria:
- Has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others.
- Needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life.
- Has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval. Note: Do not include realistic fears of retribution.
- 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).
- Goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant.
- Feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for himself or herself.
- Urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends.
- Is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of himself or herself.
DPD shows overlap with borderline personality disorder in the fear of abandonment. It also shows overlap with avoidant personality disorder in the sufferer’s anxious and self-critical tendencies. However, people with DPD doubt their ability to do things on their own, whereas people with AvPD doubt their ability to succeed in social situations.
One of the characteristics of dependent personality disorder is urgently seeking another relationship when one ends. Another is volunteering to do unpleasant things in order to stay in a relationship in which one is taken care of. The combination of these traits may lead DPD sufferers into codependent relationships with abusers or addicts. However, the dynamic of codependency may also produce behaviors similar to DPD in people who are otherwise healthy.