An Overview Of Dependent Personality Disorder

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated March 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Dependent personality disorder is one of 10 personality disorders recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and it is estimated that it affects less than 1% of the U.S. population, per the Merck Manual. Individuals with dependent personality disorder (DPD) are often emotionally dependent on others and experience difficulty making decisions for themselves.

This can lead to challenges in various areas of life, including at work and in personal relationships.

Below, we’ll explore dependent personality disorder, the criteria for diagnosis, and available treatments for this disorder.

Living with dependent personality disorder can be challenging
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Symptoms of dependent personality disorder

Individuals living with dependent personality disorder (DPD) typically believe they can’t take care of themselves, so they typically rely on someone to care of them and make decisions for them, such as what clothes to wear. Individuals with DPD this disorder are generally emotionally dependent on others and do everything they can to try to please those they rely on. They also tend to be passive and experience separation anxiety. They may even tolerate negative behavior, abuse,* or mistreatment from others. 

*If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please know that help is available via the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which you can contact anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also text the word “START” to 88788 or use the lifeline’s online chat feature online.

How is dependent personality disorder diagnosed?

If you think you have dependent personality disorder, it may help to speak with a healthcare provider first. A healthcare provider may consider your symptoms and conduct a physical exam to rule out any potential physical causes. If they don’t find a physical cause of your symptoms, they may refer you to a licensed mental health professional. 

A licensed therapist may look at your symptoms and determine whether they relate to dependent personality disorder, borderline personality disorder (which often has several common characteristics), or something else entirely. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a mental health professional may diagnose dependent personality disorder if you meet five or more of the following criteria: 

  • “All-consuming, unrealistic fear of being abandoned.

  • Anxious or helpless feelings when alone.

  • Inability to manage life responsibilities without seeking help from others.

  • Problems stating an opinion out of fear of loss of support or approval.

  • Strong drive to get support from others, even choosing to do unenjoyable things to get it.

  • Trouble making everyday decisions without input or reassurance from others.

  • Trouble starting or completing projects because of a lack of self-confidence or ability to make decisions.

  • Urge to seek a new relationship to provide support and approval when a close relationship ends.”


Challenges for those with dependent personality disorder

For those living with dependent personality disorder, the inability to make decisions for themselves can lead to significant challenges. The constant worry about what others think about what they do, say, wear, or even eat can take a significant toll on their mind and lead them to relationships where they can be entirely dependent on someone else. These relationships could be platonic friendships or romantic relationships. Because one individual may be entirely dependent on the other, these are often not considered healthy relationships.

For a person with DPD, it can be a challenge to do anything throughout the day without input from someone else. Individuals that they rely on may also experience stress if they feel like they have to constantly watch out for this other person. Whereas most friendships and romantic relationships tend to feature a bit of give and take, with both people offering advice, feedback, and suggestions, in this type of relationship, the person with DPD may generally be incapable of doing these things without assurance from someone else.

Treatment for dependent personality disorder

When it comes to treatment, a psychiatrist or therapist may be able to help you experience significant relief from your symptoms. It may help to be open and honest with them about what you are experiencing and how you are feeling at every stage of the process. A therapist may use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you become more independent, work toward making decisions for yourself, and become more of an active participant in your own life. This may help you feel less dependent and create healthier relationships, rather than relationships in which you are overly dependent on others.

Medication can be another form of treatment for certain individuals who are living with DPD. However, medication generally does not cure DPD. Instead, a psychiatrist may prescribe medication for depression and anxiety, which can be symptoms of DPD. It’s recommended that you never start or stop medication unless a medical professional has instructed you to.

Living with dependent personality disorder can be challenging

Online therapy may alleviate symptoms of dependent personality disorder

If you think you might be living with dependent personality disorder, you don’t have to face it alone. It may help to speak with a licensed mental health professional about your symptoms. If you feel hesitant to visit a therapist’s office, you may benefit from , which research suggests can be effective for a variety of mental health concerns, including personality disorders

With online therapy at BetterHelp you can communicate with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your home via phone, videoconference, or live chat. You can also contact your therapist at any time via in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. This may prove to be helpful if you have questions or concerns in between therapy sessions. 


Dependent personality disorder, or DPD, often makes a person feel unable to make decisions on their own. They may also experience an extreme fear of abandonment and have a need for approval and assurance from others. DPD is most often treated with therapy, but sometimes, medication may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of anxiety or depression. 

If you’re experiencing symptoms of DPD, you may benefit from speaking with a licensed counselor, whether in person or online. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people who are living with DPD. Take the first step toward becoming more independent and reach out to BetterHelp today./div>

Work through personality disorder symptoms
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