Dependent personality disorder usually starts during childhood or by the age of 29.


  • Avoidance of personal responsibility.
  • Difficulty being alone.
  • Fear of abandonment and a sense of helplessness when relationships end.
  • Oversensitivity to criticism.
  • Pessimism and lack of self-confidence.
  • Trouble making everyday decisions.

Causes of DPD

Mental health experts haven’t figured out what causes DPD. They believe it results from a mix of genetics, environment and development. Experts have found DPD is more likely in people with particular life experiences, including:

  • Abusive relationships: People who have a history of abusive relationships have a higher risk of a DPD diagnosis.
  • Childhood trauma: Children who have experienced child abuse (including verbal abuse) or neglect may develop DPD. It may also affect people who experienced a life-threatening illness during childhood.
  • Family history: Someone with a family member who has DPD or another anxiety disorder may be more likely to have a DPD diagnosis.
  • Certain cultural and religious or family behaviors: Some people may develop DPD due to cultural or religious practices that emphasize reliance on authority. But passivity or politeness alone is not a sign of DPD.

Statistics show that roughly 10% of adults have a personality disorder. Less than 1% of adults meet the criteria for DPD. More women than men tend to have DPD.


A mental health provider will talk with you about your past mental health history. Questions may include how you feel, any other mental health concerns and any substance use problems. The provider compares your answers to factors listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

For a diagnosis of DPD, a provider will look for five of the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. These factors include:

  • All-consuming, unrealistic fear of being abandoned.
  • Anxious or helpless feelings when alone.
  • Inability to manage life responsibilities without seeking help from others.
  • Problems stating an opinion out of fear of loss of support or approval.
  • Strong drive to get support from others, even choosing to do unenjoyable things to get it.
  • Trouble making everyday decisions without input or reassurance from others.
  • Trouble starting or completing projects because of a lack of self-confidence or ability to make decisions.
  • Urge to seek a new relationship to provide support and approval when a close relationship ends.



A mental health professional can help you find new ways to cope with difficult situations.

You may have psychotherapy (talk therapy) such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This care teaches you new ways to handle difficult situations. Psychotherapy and CBT can take time before you start to feel better.

With psychotherapy and CBT, you to improve self-confidence, become more active and self-reliant. You talk about finding more positive relationships. A positive, meaningful relationship can build self-confidence and help you overcome some of the symptoms of DPD.

If your DPD causes depression or anxiety, your provider might prescribe medication. You may take depression medicines, such as fluoxetine, sertraline, amitrypitline or valium.