Dependent Personality Disorder


Dependent personality disorder is a pattern of helpless behavior. People who have it depend on others too much. They may feel unable to care for themselves.


The cause is not known. It may be due to genes and 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.
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Risk Factors

Dependent personality disorder is more common in women and young adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Childhood loss of a parent
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Long childhood illness


Symptoms may be:

  • Unfounded fear
  • Feeling powerless
  • Often needing others for:
    • Advice
    • Decisions
    • Approval
  • Low self-confidence
  • A strong reaction to criticism
  • Fear of rejection


The doctor may refer you to mental health care. A therapist will ask about symptoms. A mental and health history will be taken. Diagnosis will be based on assessments.


The goal is to help the person function. Other mental health problems may need treatment. Options may be:

  • Counseling—to help with coping
  • Support groups
  • Medicines—to treat problems such as anxiety and depression


There are no current guidelines to prevent dependent personality disorder.


National Institute of Mental Health


Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Psychological Association


Alcohol use disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed on March 11, 2021.
Furnham A. A big five facet analysis of sub-clinical dependent personality disorder (dutifulness). Psychiatry Res. 2018;270:622-626.
Overview of personality disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Accessed March 11, 2021.
Personality disorder. Mental Health America website. Available at:
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Accessed March 11, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD

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