Dependent Personality Disorder
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Dependent Personality Disorder

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Dependent personality disorder is characterized by dependent and submissive behavior, often with the person deferring the majority if not all decision-making to someone else. People with this type of personality disorder are not aware that their thoughts and behaviors are inappropriate.


It is not clear what causes personality disorders, but it is likely a combination of genetic (inherited) factors and a person's environment.

The Central Nervous System

Brain face skull

A personality disorder is most likely a combination of chemical or electrical imbalances in the brain and a reaction to traumatic personal experiences.

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of acquiring a disease or condition.

The following factors are thought to increase the risk of dependent personality disorder:


Symptoms of dependent personality disorder may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irrational fear
  • Relying on others for decision-making, reassurance, and advice
  • Excessive sensitivity to criticism
  • A strong fear of rejection


You will likely be referred to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional who will ask you about your symptoms and mental and medical health history. A diagnosis will be made after a complete psychiatric assessment that rules out other disorders such as avoidant personality disorder, agoraphobia , and major depression.


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:


Counseling may be beneficial for people with dependent personality disorder. Counseling sessions focus on learning how to manage your anxiety and be more assertive.


In some cases, medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or alprazolam, may help manage symptoms. For most patients, medications only provide a minimal amount of symptom relief.

Other Treatments

Other treatments, such as group therapy and social skills training, can help you manage symptoms.


There is no known way to prevent dependent personality disorder.


Mental Health America

National Institute of Mental Health


Canadian Mental Health Association

Canadian Psychiatric Association


Dependent personality disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed June 25, 2007.

Personality disorders. Mental Health America website. Available at: . Accessed June 25, 2007.

Last reviewed April 2008 by Theodor B. Rais, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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