Dependent Personality Disorder and Addiction

dependent personality disorder

Are you dangerously codependent?

Suffering from dependent personality disorder (DPD) can cause you to develop an intense fear of abandonment. Having this constant intense fear can then lead to you misusing alcohol and drugs to help you cope. This constant misuse of alcohol and drugs can then lead to addiction. 

Treatment for dependent personality disorder is extensive enough on its own. When you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder made out of DPD and addiction to alcohol and/or drugs, treatment only becomes more complicated. That is why understanding the different ways to treat DPD, or worse, DPD and addiction, is vital.

To learn about the signs, symptoms, and treatments of both dependent personality disorder and the co-occurring disorder of a dependent personality disorder and addiction, you must first understand what a dependent personality disorder really entails.

What is a Dependent Personality Disorder?

A dependent personality disorder is when someone has an intense fear of being alone or abandoned. This fear develops due to people with DPD being completely reliant on others for their physical and emotional needs. 

When someone suffers from dependent personality disorder, it causes them to give up their own personal identity. DPD also causes people to not be capable of making their own decisions. 

Lacking the ability to think and operate for oneself can be dangerous. 

People with DPD are known to exhibit needy, clingy, people-pleasing, and passive behaviors. It is these codependent behaviors that often cause people with DPD to become involved in abusive relationships. People with DPD are also not capable of making quick enough decisions or defending themselves in times of an emergency. This lack of independence also makes it hard for people with DPD to leave abusive relationships. 

Without receiving treatment, a person with dependent personality disorder lives a miserable existence. While we know that treatment for people with dependent personality disorder is necessary, figuring out the underlying causes for why people develop DPD is nearly impossible.

What Causes Dependent Personality Disorder?

The exact cause of dependent personality disorder is unknown. Researchers believe that there are multiple factors for the development of DPD. One of these believed factors is overprotective parenting during childhood. 

Researchers believe this to be a factor in the development of DPD because being overprotective over children can cause them to be overdependent on you. This overdependent nature could then lead to the development of dependent personality disorder once that child reaches adulthood. 

Researchers also believe that a person’s social environment could factor into his or her’s development of dependent personality disorder. In fact, researchers think that it’s a mixture of social environment influence and genetics that causes people to develop DPD. Researchers also think that childhood trauma of some sort could play a role. 

Signs of Dependent Personality Disorder

A common sign of dependent personality disorder is extreme passivity. If someone is so passive that he or she will go along with anything others say to please them or avoid conflict, that person could have DPD. 

Another sign of dependent personality disorder is the need for constant reassurance. This need for constant reassurance occurs in people with DPD because of their extreme levels of co-dependency. In other words, people with a dependent personality disorder cannot make decisions on their own. 

To avoid having to make decisions, people with DPD will avoid all forms of responsibility. For example, someone with a dependent personality disorder will never volunteer to take the lead on a work project. 

People with DPD will also avoid making themselves have any sort of specific identity. By doing so, they hope no one will pick them out of the crowd for any reason. 

Another sign of someone having dependent personality disorder is that person always being oversensitive to criticism. This characteristic trait often occurs in people with DPD because of their desire to not want people to leave them. In fact, a person never being alone is also a possible sign of dependent personality disorder. 

Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder

One of the top symptoms of dependent personality disorder is having a fear of abandonment. This fear of abandonment may cause people to jump from one romantic relationship to another to avoid being alone. 

Another common symptom of dependent personality disorder is extreme pessimism and self-doubt. People with DPD tend to exhibit these personality traits because they don’t think that they can take care of themselves or that they have any value. As a result, people with DPD cling to others so that those people can make decisions for them. 

This lack of self-confidence also causes people with dependent personality disorder to not want to pick up or finish new projects. It is also this lack of self-confidence within people with DPD that makes them willing to accept abuse and mistreatment and put others’ needs before their own. 

Because people with dependent personality disorder lack self-confidence and the ability to take care of themselves, they often come across as naive and childlike. If you exhibit many of the signs and symptoms of DPD and there is no physical reason for you to be that way, you may want to ask a psychiatrist about the possibility of you having DPD.  

How to Diagnose Dependent Personality Disorder

If you exhibit most of the signs and symptoms of someone with dependent personality disorder, your doctor will first go through your medical and psychiatric history. After that, your doctor may choose to give you a physical exam. That physical exam rules out that any physical illness is causing you these signs and symptoms. 

If there are no physical reasons for you exhibiting such signs and symptoms, your doctor will then refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Once you are with your psychiatrist or psychologist, he or she will use interview and assessment tools to decide whether or not you have dependent personality disorder. 

Dependent Personality Disorder Treatments

Most people that receive treatment for dependent personality disorder initially come to receive treatment for mental or behavioral issues. It is while being assessed for these other issues that most people receive a dependent personality disorder diagnosis. 

Once a doctor makes a DPD diagnosis, the type of treatment that he or she will prescribe people will help them manage their DPD symptoms. Unfortunately, because there is no cure for dependent personality disorder, all the treatment will do is help people manage their DPD. 

The main tool that a healthcare professional will use to treat your DPD, is psychotherapy. Healthcare professionals will use psychotherapy to help people with DPD learn how to form healthy relationships. Healthcare professionals will also use psychotherapy to help teach people with DPD how to be more active and independent. 

DPD treatment may also include assertiveness training and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The purpose of the assertiveness training is to teach people with DPD how to be more self-confident. The purpose of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to teach the people with DPD how to have a new attitude and perspective when thinking about themselves and others. 

To restructure the defense mechanisms, coping styles, and relationship skills of someone with DPD, that person needs to go to psychotherapy long-term. Someone with certain mental illnesses and a dependent personality disorder may start needing medication to help treat the mental illness.

How Dependent Personality Disorder Can Lead to Substance Use Disorder

When a person has dependent personality disorder, he or she has an intense fear of being alone, abandoned, and embarrassed. To help cope with these intense fears, many people with dependent personality disorder start drinking and taking substances. 

Consuming alcohol and/or drugs can relieve DPD symptoms at first. The alcohol and/or drugs will eventually wear off though, causing the symptoms of DPD to come back with a vengeance. This will ultimately cause someone with DPD to try to consume more and more alcohol and/or drugs to cope. Over time, this misuse of alcohol and/or substances can cause the person with DPD to develop a substance use disorder. 

Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder and Dependent Personality Disorder Treatments

Psychotherapy, and sometimes medication, are both used in the treatment of substance use disorders and dependent personality disorder. As a result, many forms of psychotherapy can simultaneously treat both conditions. For example, dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy can both primarily be used to treat substance use disorders and DPD. 

Many medical professionals will also utilize one-on-one and group counseling on top of varying forms of psychotherapy to treat a person that has a co-occurring disorder made out of a substance use disorder and DPD. To specifically help treat the substance use disorder within this co-occurring disorder combination, therapeutic tools such as family therapy, support groups, and relapse prevention planning will also be used.  

Sana Lake Has Got You Covered

At Sana Lake Recovery Center, we offer a variety of psychotherapy treatments for both substance use and mental health disorders. These psychotherapy treatments come in the form of individual therapy, group therapy, or family therapy depending on your needs. We also offer medication-assisted treatments for anyone who needs it. 

For incoming patients that need extra assistance in their addiction recovery journey, we also offer relapse prevention planning. Between all the different treatment programs that we have here at Sana Lake, you could easily receive high-quality treatment for your co-occurring disorder right here. 

To learn more about the treatment and program plan options here at Sana Lake, feel free to contact us today. 

References:

https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/dependent-personality-disorder#2

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.