Overcoming Dependent Personality Disorder

How can I overcome a dependent personality disorder?

Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is a form of mental illness that affects adults. DPD is a debilitating condition that can severely impact the life of the sufferer and those around them.

So, what is DPD and how can sufferers overcome it?

What is Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?

People who suffer from DPD are overly dependent on others. In work, they tend to avoid positions of authority and responsibility and can become unduly agitated or nervous when asked to make even trivial decisions. When it comes to relationships, DPD sufferers seek out people who can protect them from having to take responsibility for their own actions.

DPD sufferers are also at increased risk of depression, self-harming behaviors, substance abuse and of suffering abuse perpetrated by others.

Signs that someone has Dependent Personality Disorder

A person who is suffering from DPD may exhibit the following character traits:

  • Always assuming the worst, ‘making a drama out of a crisis' (catastrophizing)
  • Showing a chronic reliance on another individual for subsistence and emotional wellbeing, stalking, continually demanding reassurance
  • Showing an overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person (engulfment)
  • An irrational fear of rejection or abandonment
  • A chronic sense that daily life is worthless, leading to impulsive actions seeking dramatic relationship experiences
  • Low self-esteem and self-loathing
  • Mirroring another person's behaviors or traits
  • Panic and anxiety attacks
  • Always casting themselves in the role of victim
  • An unrealistic expectation of favorable treatment by others

A person suffering from DPD may also expect a child to take on the role of responsibility for their care, when this is not in fact necessary.

Overcoming Dependent Personality Disorder


Psychotherapy is the treatment of choice when helping someone to overcome DPD. Long-term psychotherapy is not always suitable for this personality disorder, as it can serve to reinforce a dependent relationship with the counselor or therapist. Short-term solutions that focus on dealing with specific life problems caused by the disorder are generally more effective.

An important component of therapy is examining the person's faulty cognitions and their related emotions, for example, lack of self-confidence, autonomy versus dependency. Assertiveness training can be very effective in treating DPD. Group therapy sessions can also be helpful, provided that the sufferer does not begin to develop new dependent relationships within the group. Successful conclusion of the therapy can be assumed if the person is able to complete their sessions without experiencing problems in leaving the therapist.

Drug therapy

Although some drug therapy can be useful in controlling some of the symptoms exhibited by DPD sufferers, sedative drug abuse and overdose is a common problem with this disorder and should only be used when there is no cognitive alternative or when the physical effects of the condition demand it.

It is also extremely important that drug therapy is not misconceived by the DPD sufferer as a ‘magic' solution that will solve all their problems. Doctors should always work very closely with psychotherapists to determine which drugs would be safe to prescribe. Once the condition is showing sufficient improvement, it's important that the drug therapy is stopped so that drug dependency does not become a further complication.


As psychotherapy progresses, it may be useful to advise that the DPD sufferer joins a self-help support group where they will be able to put some of their new skills to the test, while still within the supervision of their therapist and doctor. Many people find that overcoming dependent personality disorder is greatly helped if they are able to share and discuss their common experiences with others in the DPD community.

Once again, it is important that the individual does not begin to use relationships within the support group for dependency and this should be monitored closely by their health professional team.

In conclusion

Overcoming dependent personality disorder can be achieved through a combination of psychotherapy, drug therapy, and during the later stages of treatment, by joining a self-help community. If you or someone you know may have DPD, always seek professional medical help and don't try to ‘go it alone'.

Last Reviewed:
June 20, 2017
Last Updated:
October 25, 2017
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