Dependent personality disorder is a form of anxiety that makes a person feel incapable of being alone. People with dependent personality disorder rely on others to make decisions and need reassurance from others in their everyday activities. They may have a fear of being abandoned by those close to them.

Comorbidity refers to when a person is diagnosed with more than one disorder and usually suggests a link between the two. There is a high comorbidity of alcohol dependence with mental health conditions such as anxiety, mood, substance abuse or personality disorders. 

People with dependent personality disorder are often co-diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. In fact, personality disorders, in general, and alcohol use disorders commonly occur in the same patient. When two disorders are diagnosed together, it is likely that one could be influencing the other. Therefore, both conditions should be considered when developing treatments for these patients.

Does Alcohol Affect Dependent Personality Disorder?

The question of whether or not alcohol is affecting a person’s dependent personality disorder, or if the opposite is true, is difficult to answer because they commonly occur together. Among people diagnosed with alcohol addiction, up to 78% of them have also been diagnosed with a personality disorder, such as dependent personality disorder. 

The specific data on dependent personality disorder (as compared to personality disorders in general) is less prevalent, though a comorbidity does exist. Dependent personality disorder only occurs in 0.5-0.6% of the population, whereas 5.4-29% of people who struggle with alcohol addiction have dependent personality disorder, depending on the study.

Whether or not alcohol affects the symptoms of the disorder itself is a question that has not been fully explored. However, alcohol use can affect the treatment of dependent personality disorder. In general, it is recommended that individuals treat their alcohol use disorder simultaneously with their personality disorder in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Can Alcohol Use Cause Dependent Personality Disorder?

Since alcohol use and personality disorders can be comorbid, the question has been raised as to whether or not alcohol can lead someone to develop a personality disorder. 

Most researchers and clinicians believe the opposite is true, especially among people who have dependent personality disorder. The hypothesis is that people with personality disorders that are highly anxious are more likely to turn to alcohol or other substances to try to cope with their anxiety. As a result, they are more at risk of developing an addiction to alcohol. 

There is evidence, however, that both supports and goes against this “self-medication” hypothesis, making it unclear whether or not this is actually the case. It is also possible that other factors, such as genetic predisposition, family history and environmental factors, predispose a person to have both a personality disorder and a substance use disorder. It’s a case of the “chicken or the egg” dilemma, and it is not clear if one causes the other. 

Dependent personality disorder is not as well studied as other personality disorders, and therefore, the factors leading to its development remain unclear.

Key Points: Alcohol and Dependent Personality Disorder

The relationship between alcohol use disorder and dependent personality disorder is complicated; however, there are some important key points when it comes to alcohol and dependent personality disorder:

  • Alcohol abuse and dependent personality disorder can be co-diagnosed
  • It is unclear whether alcohol affects dependent personality disorder symptoms, if it’s the other way around or if they emerge together
  • Alcohol use most likely does not cause dependent personality disorder, but some people may use alcohol to deal with the anxiety of their disorder
  • Treatment for both disorders is key for successful recovery

If you or a loved one are struggling with dependent personality disorder and are turning to alcohol to cope, The Recovery Village can help.  Our facilities serve communities from Florida to Washington, specializing in a range of addiction recovery services. To learn more about our comprehensive treatment plans, call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.