What is Dependent Personality Disorder? (2)

Not being able to make up your own mind and needing others to help you to make even the most basic of decisions is one characteristic of Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD). Another is being unable to state your wants, needs and opinions because of an unrealistic fear of rejection.

In our last article we looked at the stories of Lori and Jennifer, who displayed several of the characteristic traits of this disorder. Lori found it hard to trust herself and constantly drew others into decision-making for her, even to the point of allowing other to choose her moisturizer. Jennifer was excessively dependent on the opinion of others in most aspects of her life, often aliening others because of her neediness.

Today we look at Michael whose fear of personal rejection and abandonment led him to do all the really awful jobs around the office that no-one else wanted to do. His boss took advantage of Michael’s inability to say no and made unreasonable requests of him. But Michael had this same problem outside of work, were there was no power imbalance such as exists between boss and employee.

A member of his local church, not only could he not say no to the most menial task, but he would often volunteer for them in an attempt to extract “love” from other church members. Humans being humans, poor Michael ended up being the resident doormat. This lead to further feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem that Michael felt helpless to control. He began having periods of free-floating anxiety and was generally miserable. That is, when he was not actively trying to please someone at work or at church.

Sarah also suffers from DPD and although a competent seamstress and designer, she chooses to work for a company making low-cost clothing when she is gifted enough to be a designer and run a business of her own. Yet her disorder is such that, even in the less demanding job of routine pattern sewing, she constantly seeks reassurance from the floor manager that she is doing the right thing. She laughs off any suggestions that she start her own business, even from home.

Sarah also has lost one of her close friends from high school who has moved interstate. Devastated at her friend’s transfer, she has frantically contacted several acquaintances in an attempt to fill the void left by her friend. She desperately fears being alone and believes she cannot cope, or even survive, without the support of others.

In the next article in this series, we will look at the diagnostic criteria required for a clinical diagnosis of dependent personality disorder.

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