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What is Dependent Personality Disorder? (1)

We are all dependent on each other to a certain extent to survive. We need contact with other like souls for our mental health, and when we are ill we often need a helping hand to get us back on our feet. But what about a person who is constantly reliant on opinions, advice and help from others simply to get through the day?

Lori suffers from anxiety and occasional panic attacks, but the root cause of these problems is her excessive need for approval, and her submissive and clinging behavior. The latter is driven by her fear of separation and abandonment by other people. Sometimes these other people are not even significant players in her life. They could be a neighbor, the local store-owner, or the phone salesman trying to persuade her to get her carpets steam-cleaned. Unfortunately her clinging behavior drives people away; something that Lori deeply fears.

Lori worries constantly and finds it hard to make decisions on her own. Even buying a moisturizer can be a trial for her and an ordeal for her friends and family. She simply cannot make up her mind on her own but seeks reassurances from others that she is doing the right thing. Often she may make repeated requests over just one purchase.

Lori also has difficulty in stating her own opinion to others for fear that she will be rejected. She also has difficulty in standing up for her two school age children in situations where she knows her child has done no wrong but she is afraid of offending the other person involved. She is now experiencing difficulties in her relationship with her children due to this overriding fear.

Individuals with dependent personality disorder (DPD) are very self-critical and often report that they are “useless” and “hopeless.” Yet they can give little real evidence of this. In fact, they may be quite competent in many areas of their lives.

However, they can be frustrating to be in a relationship with due to their constant need for approval and reassurance that they are doing the right thing. Jennifer has just about worn out her friend Rachel with her constant mind-changing and hesitation in making a decision over which school to send her children to. Jennifer approached Rachel about a particular school because Rachel’s children were enrolled there. Rachel said she was very happy with the school’s performance.

Jennifer then sought the opinion of three other parents at the same school who all gave similarly favorable reports. Then Jennifer phoned Rachel again, just for further confirmation. Jennifer repeated that her children were both happy and doing well. Rachel thought that this was the end of the matter.

Two days before enrolments were due, Rachel got a visit from an apologetic and upset Jennifer. Jennifer was unable to make a decision to enroll her child. She presented Rachel with several brochures on three different schools and broke down in tears. She could not make a decision and her anxiety levels had skyrocketed to a point where it was actually impossible for her to see clearly.

In coming articles, we will look at other characteristic behaviors of people suffering from dependant personality disorder.


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