There has been a bit of confusion in the narcissistic abuse recovery community around codependency and dependent personality disorder. A question I received from one of our community members prompted me to clarify the differences and similarities between the two. The confusion seems to be that some people think that codependency and dependent personality disorder are the same or similar, sort of like how someone with toxic, abusive behaviors and narcissistic traits may or may not be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
However, in the case of codependency and dependent personality disorder, there are only a few similarities, but many differences. If you have wondered this about yourself, here’s what you need to know.
What is Codependency?
Do you struggle with doing anything independently and feeling secure when you’re alone? Do you need to be with others, or do you find yourself feeling overly connected to a partner, friend, or family member (or any one person in particular) because the idea of being alone frightens you? Do you need to be in a relationship? Do you tolerate abuse and other behaviors in your relationship? Have you stuck it out, regardless of the toxicity of it? Do you go out of your way to please others? If so, then you might be struggling with codependency.
Codependency is a toxic emotional and behavioral condition that makes it nearly impossible to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form and stay in relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive. In other words, codependency is an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, most often a toxic one.
What is a Codependent?
We call someone who struggles with codependency a codependent, which means a person in a toxic or dysfunctional “helping” relationship, in which one person supports and/or enables the person’s abuse, addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, and/or under-achievement.
- Codependents are often people pleasers.
- If you are codependent, you’ll find yourself making significant sacrifices to make your partner happy, no matter how much you suffer. You do this because on some level, you need your partner to need you, and you somehow base your self-worth on whether or not your partner needs you.
- When someone is codependent, they have a tendency to stay in the relationship no matter how toxic, at least before they recognize this issue. Sadly, due to their nature, many codependents end up in toxic relationships with narcissists.
- If you’re facing narcissistic abuse, your codependency could be the factor that is causing you not to leave. You might even feel guilty if you were to express your wants and needs, so you keep sacrificing them to please your partner.
But does being codependent mean you have DPD? No, there is a difference. Let’s talk about DPD right now.
What Is Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?
When you first learn about DPD, you might think it’s just a formal diagnosis of codependency. But according to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s an anxious personality disorder, and there’s a lot more to it than that. In short, someone with DPD feels generally helpless, like they can’t take care of themselves at all.
If you have DPD, you would be highly dependent on others, and you will rely on others to make decisions for you. You are afraid to be alone and you worry that you might not be okay if you do find yourself going solo. You also do whatever you can to make the people around you like you, including but not limited to not disagreeing with them, even if you’re not on the same page. As with codependency, you might also have a fear of abandonment.
With DPD, you aren’t likely to speak up for yourself and you might avoid arguments by agreeing with others even if you secretly don’t agree with what someone wants to do. As you would with codependency, you’d be likely to stick with an unhealthy relationship due to the fear of being alone.
What Are The Differences Between DPD And Codependency?
Now, let’s talk about the differences between DPD and codependency. First, DPD is a personality disorder, whereas codependency is a behavior.
If you are codependent, you want to take care of your partner, and you will do whatever you can to keep them around – even if they are going out of their way to hurt you. You’d feel more connected if your partner really needed you, and you would sacrifice your wants and needs to take care of them. While you might need people to need you, you’re also happy to do all of the work involved in whatever that entails. You’re a fixer, a helper. Growing up, your friends might have always come to you for advice and considered you the “mom” or “dad” of your group. You’re the one everyone counts on.
If you have DPD, you need others to take care of you. You wouldn’t know what to do if your partner needed you to do something for them. You wouldn’t be likely to tolerate excessive emotional, psychological, or physical abuse in order to maintain the relationship as someone who is codependent might. People with DPD sometimes act helpless and refuse to handle their adult responsibilities, preferring to have them taken care of by someone else.
How to Get Help with DPD and Codependency
Is there any hope for you if you’re struggling with DPD or codependency? Can you get help for either one? Yes, you can get to the road of independence, but it will take plenty of time, effort, and utilizing the right therapeutic sources. Here are some resources to help you.
Dependent Personality Disorder Resources
- WebMD – Dependendent Personality DIsorder Information
- Cleveland Clinic – Dependent Personality Disorder Info & Resources
- Study by Dependent Personality Disorder Expert Robert F. Bornstein, PhD
- Treatment for Dependent Personality Disorder
- Take this codependency self-assessment.
- Learn more about the signs of codependency.
- Learn how your codependency might have developed.
- Learn about narcissistic abuse syndrome (C-PTSD).
- Learn about Codependency in Toxic Relationships
- Get personal coaching for codependency in narcissistic abuse recovery.
Related articles for People Struggling with Codependency
- The Addict or Alcoholic Narcissist and Codependent, Toxic Relationships
- Codependency and Narcissism in Relationships: A Toxic Combination
- Narcissists in Relationships: The Shocking Truth on Who’s the Drug and Who’s the Addict
- Toxic Narcissism in Relationships: Identifying PTSD and C-PTSD
- Narcissists and Public Humiliation: How & Why Narcs Shame You Publicly
- Gaslighting and Toxic Narcissism: Top 10 Red Flags (Video)
- Why Narcissists Are Often Misdiagnosed With Bipolar Disorder
- 101 Struggles Only Narcissistic Abuse Victims and Survivors Will Understand
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.