Dependent Personality Disorder is on the Cluster C Spectrum.
Most of the personality disorders we dig into here are on the Cluster B spectrum. But according to the Mayo Clinic, dependent personality disorder is a Cluster C personality disorder.
“Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior,” the Mayo Clinic says. “They include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.”
Dependent Personality Disorder is an Anxious Personality Disorder.
When you first learn about DPD, you might think it’s just a formal diagnosis of codependency.
In short, someone with DPD feels generally helpless, like they can’t take care of themselves at all.
People with dependent personality disorder may feel like they need to be around other people all the time in order to feel good about themselves. They may try to please others and avoid conflict at all costs, even if it means giving up their own needs.
It’s not unusual for people with this condition to feel like no one understands them or supports them as much as they need—and this can lead them to become depressed or anxious.
What does dependent personality disorder feel like?
You may notice that people with Dependent Personality Disorder have great difficulty initiating projects or doing things on their own (because of fear of disapproval or failure).
They need other people to assume responsibility for them, make most of their decisions, give them advice and instructions, and take care of most of the constructive action in their lives.
You’re highly dependent on the people around you, even relying on them to make decisions for you.
You need others to take care of 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 are likely to have a fear of abandonment.
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.
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.
People with dependent personality disorder feel anxious and worried when they think that someone who is close to them might be harmed in any way, or think that they are abandoning them. This can make it hard for someone with dependent personality disorder to have personal relationships with others.
How can you heal from dependent personality disorder?
Dependent personality disorder causes feelings of shame and guilt in yourself, as well as your inability to be alone. It is also characterized by your pattern of depending on others to meet your own personal needs.
It is a type of emotional dependency that centers around seeking approval or validation from your environment.
Is there any hope for you if you have DPD?
YES! There are numerous treatment options available to help you begin the road to healing from dependent personality disorder.
Of course, as you’ve likely already realized, dependent personality disorder can be a difficult disorder to overcome, as a sufferer’s sense of self is bound up in the relationship.
Whether you’re facing DPD yourself or you know someone else struggling with it, these tips can help you move forward.
The key to healing from dependent personality disorder lies in identifying yourself first and foremost as a person who is capable of achieving their goals with or without the help of others.
The first step to healing from DPD is learning about it and realizing you have it. Self-awareness is the first step and you should be compiling a list of everything you do now that can be replaced with more positive behaviors.
The second step is understanding how the disorder has affected your life and how to make all those broken promises come true. Reaching out to others is important, but don’t let this become a crutch you lean on when you should be solving your problems on your own.
The third step is working on improving your relationships, which is one of the most difficult parts of recovering but also one of the most important. Remember that you’re a strong and capable person who can help yourself just as much as you can be helped by someone else – even yourself.
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.
Being in a good frame of mind helps keep one in the picture of health. ~Unknown
You know all about toxic families and toxic friends, but have you ever considered that your own thoughts can become toxic?
This is especially true if you love a narcissist–and even more especially if you live with the narcissist.
We’ve talked before about why it’s important to keep an eye on your thoughts–because you bring about what you think about. So, if you’re focused on all good things, then more good things will come your way. But, if your thoughts become toxic, they can and will draw negativity and toxicity into your life, and can even cause physical side effects if left unchecked.
But when we’re feeling negatively and thinking toxic thoughts–like feeling and nurturing rage, holding grudges or wallowing in guilt or self-pity–our bodies release damaging chemicals. This makes us more susceptible to illness and disease.
Narcissistic rage can further complicate the situation, especially because narcissists typically aren’t aware that they have the ability to BE wrong–and if they are, forget about it–you’re going to have a cranky person dealing with a severe narcissistic injury.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, author of the book Who Switched Off My Brain, says that “stress and anxiety harm the body in a multitude of ways; patchy memory, severe mental health issues, immune system problems, heart problems and digestive problems.”
You may not even realize how often you complain or lament about the things in life you don’t love. Maybe you are frustrated because you had to wait in line for a half hour at the grocery store, or the traffic on your way home from work was so terrible that you actually got out of your car and sat on the hood to get a little sun. Perhaps you found out that your kid failed Science or you didn’t get into the college of your choice–or your dog ate your knitting project.
If you’re a narcissist, you’re probably not reading this anyway–but those of us who are dealing with you are likely to get the brunt of your toxic thoughts. So hey, if you love us, why not try to get a brighter perspective? We’ll love you for it.
And honestly, does it really help you to rehash and focus on these negative things? Nope, it actually hurts you. So, while you should absolutely feel comfortable telling the people you care about what happened to you during the day, try to focus on the positive side of things, even when there doesn’t seem to be one.
For example, if you waited in line at the grocery store, maybe you talked to someone who really needed a good conversation. If you sat in traffic too long–maybe you needed the solitude or you heard your favorite song. You get the idea–find the silver lining in every cloud.
How to Stop Toxic Thoughts: Use Mind Control (On Yourself)
I can’t stress enough how important it is to recognize and monitor your thoughts. You may not even realize how often you think negative thoughts. For example, if your friend wins an award that you wanted, you may think “she must be better than me” or “I deserved that award, not her!” But if you can bring yourself to genuinely congratulate and feel happy for your friend, you’ll not only do her a favor, but yourself too.
If you find yourself FEELING negatively, take a minute to listen to your thoughts. You might be surprised to find out that you may be subconsciously thinking toxic thoughts.
Take control of your mind, because you can. All you need to do is mentally cancel those toxic thoughts and replace them with positive and healthy thoughts that reflect your true desires. (Because whatever you think about and focus on is what you’re drawing toward yourself–so why not think about and focus on what you really want?)
Change Your Scene
When I feel like my thoughts are getting a little toxic, sometimes it helps me to just change the scene around me. Maybe that means just going into a different room or taking a walk–or maybe I need to get in the car and go somewhere. But inevitably, if I make the effort to change my scene, it changes my mind pretty quickly.
Try going out for coffee with a friend, taking a walk or a bath, working out–or even busting out the Wii for a little karaoke or golf. Whatever works for you–just get away from the spot in which you started thinking toxic thoughts for awhile.
What do you do to control and eliminate toxic thoughts? Tell me in the comments section, below, or hit me up on Facebook.
You’re at a party and you notice your husband getting a bit too close to another woman. After the party, you confront him. He tells you to stop being so insecure and controlling; that he’s his own man and if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have acted like that in the first place. After arguing all night, you end up begging for forgiveness and apologize for the trouble.
Maybe it’s your mom – she’s picking on you like it’s a sport. She’s worried about what you’re wearing, what you’re eating – who you’re hanging out with – but it’s unhealthy. Instead of fighting back, you just suck it up and take it – maybe you’re too sensitive, or perhaps you really are crazy after all. Who can’t take a bit of criticism, anyway?
Or it’s your boss, who told you you had his support on your latest project, only to backpedal when it’s time to present it to the team. Suddenly, he criticizes you for your poor choices and he’s jumnped ship – but when you talk to him later, he tells you it was wrong from the beginning and you need to be more careful in the future. You find yourself wondering if your judgment might really be flawed, after all.
Maybe this stuff doesn’t happen in your life, but for many people, it’s an everyday reality. If you think it could never be you, think again! Some of the most intelligent and capable people are living in painfully toxic relationships with narcissists, and they’re plagued by regular bouts of gaslighting, an insidious form of emotional abuse and manipulation that can be crueler than more obvious forms of abuse because it sort of sneaks up on you.
Because of its insidious nature, gaslighting is one form of emotional abuse that is hard to recognize and even more challenging to break free from. Part of that is because the narcissist exploits one of our greatest fears – the fear of being alone.