There are myths associated with dependent personality disorder, such as the belief that it is not treatable, but learning the facts can dispel these misunderstandings.
Individuals with dependent personality disorder (DPD) demonstrate a need to have other people take care of them, and they may present as clingy, submissive, or unable to independently make decisions. Dependent personality disorder myths are common. Learning the facts about DPD will help paint a more realistic view of the disorder.
Myth 1: DPD is more common in women.
Fact: DPD occurs equally in men and women.
There is some misconception that DPD is a diagnosis associated only with women, but it can occur equally in men. One study found that in a sample of college students and military members, the prevalence of dependent personality disorder was 0.8% for men and 1.13% for women. These prevalence rates are similar, both near 1%.
Some dependent personality disorder statistics suggest that women are more likely to be diagnosed with DPD when compared to men, but it is possible that gender norms may make women more likely to receive a DPD diagnosis. For example, a woman who demonstrates feminine characteristics such as reliance on a male partner may be diagnosed with dependent personality disorder even if such traits are considered to be socially and culturally appropriate for women.
Myth 2: DPD only affects romantic relationships.
Fact: DPD can affect romantic relationships, but it also affects other areas of life, such as daily decision-making.
Dependent personality disorder and relationships can be difficult because individuals with this diagnosis are afraid of being abandoned and can present as excessively clingy in romantic relationships. They also strongly dislike being alone and may jump from one relationship to the next.
While DPD can affect romantic relationships, it involves dependency on others in additional areas of life, such as at work or school. For instance, a person with DPD may be unable to decide what to wear to school or may struggle to complete tasks at work without prompting and supervision from a superior. Taking responsibility for daily life skills such as paying bills or maintaining a household can also be difficult for someone with DPD.
People with DPD may rely on a romantic partner to care for them and make simple decisions, but they can also become dependent upon a friend, parent, or coworker. DPD does not affect just romantic relationships.
Myth 3: Dependent personality disorder is the same as codependency.
Fact: Dependent personality disorder is a mental health condition that is distinct from codependency.
A person with dependent personality disorder relies on others to assume a caretaking role and assist with daily tasks and responsibilities, but in codependency, a person takes on a caretaking role for someone else. A person who is codependent will become obsessive in his or her caretaking duties, as they are a source of self-esteem.
Often times, a codependent person will take on the role of caretaker for someone who is ill or struggling with an addiction to drugs or gambling. The codependent person will assume responsibility for the other person’s behavior and attempt to save him or her from any consequences.
While a person with dependent personality disorder will seek out someone to fulfill a caretaking role in his or her life, the difference with codependent vs. dependent personality disorder is that a codependent person assumes excessive responsibility for another person, whereas people with dependent personality disorder seek out someone to care for them and help them make everyday decisions.
Myth 4: Dependent personality disorder isn’t treatable.
Fact: People with dependent personality disorder can recover with treatment.
Dependent personality disorder treatment is available and can alleviate symptoms so that individuals with this condition can function independently and enjoy fulfilling relationships. Research shows that while medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics do not tend to provide any significant benefits for dependent personality disorder, psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can be effective for treating the condition.
Therapy that incorporates multiple approaches, such as psychodynamic, behavioral, and cognitive, seems to be most effective for treating dependent personality disorder. In therapy, people can learn coping skills and challenge irrational thoughts and uncomfortable emotions that contribute to dependent behaviors. They may also learn to identify triggers and explore childhood experiences, such as their relationships with their parents, that have preceded the dependent personality disorder.
If you or a loved one is experiencing dependent personality disorder and a co-occurring addiction, The Recovery Village provides comprehensive treatment services that can address both conditions. Contact our admissions team today to learn about treatment options and to begin the journey toward recovery.
Cleveland Clinic. “Dependent personality disorder.” March 30, 2017. Accessed June 3, 2019.
Klonsky, E. David, et al. “Gender role and personality disorders.”Journal of Personality Disorders, 2002. Accessed June 4, 2019.
Jane, J. Serrita. “Gender bias in diagnostic criteria for p[…]nse theory analysis.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, February 2017. Accessed June 4, 2019.
Bornstein, Robert. “Dependent personality disorder: Effectiv[…]ime-limited therapy.” Current Psychiatry, January 2007. Accessed June 4, 2019.
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