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A dependent personality disorder is characterized by the person playing a passive role, and submitting to others. Other people are allowed and encouraged to make and make important decisions in their lives. They are usually uncomfortable being alone, and often have an anxious and depressed appearance.

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Symptoms of dependent personality disorder 

A personality disorder is characterized by abnormalities in the personality. The condition manifests itself already in adolescence and continues into adulthood.

A dependent personality disorder is characterized by the person playing a passive role, and submitting to others. Other people are allowed and encouraged to make and make important decisions in their lives. 

The person has a persistent and excessive need to be cared for which leads to submissive clingy behaviors and fear of separation. 

The person with a dependent personality disorder appears to be concerned that others should make the most important decisions in one's life. You subordinate your own needs in relation to the needs of those you depend on, and have an unreasonably high resilience to their wishes.

The person is characterized by a lack of will to make legitimate demands on those they depend on. It is a basic feeling of being uncomfortable or helpless when alone, due to excessive fear of inability to take care of oneself.

The strong preoccupation with the fear of being abandoned by a person you have a close relationship with, and of being left to take care of yourself, leads to a limited ability to make everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and confirmations from others.


According to the diagnostic instrument SCID-II, dependent personality disorder is characterized by


  1. Has difficulty making everyday decisions as long as the person does not receive a lot of advice and assurances from others. 
  2. Need others to take responsibility for most essential areas of life. 
  3. Difficulty expressing disagreement with others for fear of losing support or acceptance. Important note: does not include fears that are realistic.
  4. Have difficulty starting projects or doing things on your own (due to lack of self-confidence when it comes to your own assessments or skills rather than lack of motivation or energy). 
  5. Goes extremely far to receive help and support from others, even as far as volunteering to do things that are uncomfortable. Important note: does not include behavior where the intention is rational, for example to be promoted at work.
  6. Feeling unwell and helpless alone due to an excessive fear of not being able to take care of oneself. 
  7. Searching with great effort for a new relationship by which one can receive care and support when a close relationship ends. 
  8. Is unrealistically concerned about the fear of being abandoned and having to take care of himself / herself. 


What helps with dependent personality disorder?

The treatment of personality disorders aims to create better social functioning and adaptation. In addition, attempts are made to reduce acute symptoms, such as psychosis. Furthermore, support is provided to ride out crises in relation to those closest to them.

In the treatment context, personality disorders are divided into two groups: mild and severe personality disorders. The mild personality disorders include avoidant, obsessive-compulsive and dependent personality disorders, while the rest are considered among the most severe.

The main treatment for the mild personality disorders is long-term psychotherapy. This is done by a specialist. Some will need additional treatment for depression and anxiety.

In the case of severe personality disorders, hospitalization and medical treatment in crises may be necessary, in addition to long-term psychotherapy. Supportive talks with a general practitioner may also be relevant.

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Written by

ove heradstveit

Ove Heradstveit

Psychologist, specialist in clinical community psychology. PhD.
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