The Parade's almost over! We've only got Schizotypal, Obsessive-Compulsive, and today's featured personality disorder to go. This entry will be short and to the point, since I'm going to have my baby with me finally!! She arrives tomorrow, so I'm knocking this out tonight. :)
There are eight characteristics of Dependent Personality Disorder, and a person has to have five of them to be diagnosable. It's mainly characterized by an overwhelming and excessive need by the person to be taken care of that leads to submission and clinging behaviors and fears of separation. This can be broken down as follows:
1) Has great difficulty making everyday decisions (like what to wear or where to eat) without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others. If they are criticized or shown disapproval, they will take this as further proof of their worthlessness and lose faith in themselves even more.
2) Tend to be passive and let other people (usually a single person take the initiative and assume responsibility for most major areas of their lives. This could be dependence on a spouse or parent...and this person actually decides everything from where to live to what school to attend to what job to get to who to marry, even. This need goes beyond the age-appropriate dependence of a young child on his or her parent or of an elderly or handicapped person. Usually, their social relations are limited to the few people they are dependent on.
3) Often have difficulty expressing disagreement with other people, especially those on whom they are dependent. This is because they have a fear of losing support of approval. They'll go along with something they feel/know is wrong rather than risk losing the help of those they look to for guidance. They don't want to alienate those they receive nurturance from.
4) Have difficulty initiating projects or going things independently. They lack self-confidence and believe that they need help to begin and carry through tasks. They present as inept and needing constant assistance. They are convinced that others can do things better than them, so they wait for others to start things. They can function adequately if given lots of reassurance that someone else is supervising and approving. They may fear becoming more competent, because this could lead to abandonment. Often, they are characterized by self-doubt, calling themselves stupid or belittling their abilities and assets.
5) May go to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others to the point of volunteering for unpleasant tasks if such behavior will bring them the care they need. They will submit to unreasonable demands and end up in unbalanced or distorted relationships. They may make extraordinary self-sacrifices, even tolerating abuse of various kinds.
6) Feel uncomfortable or helpless when alone, because of their exaggerated fears of being unable to care for themselves. They want to tag along with important others just to avoid being alone, even if they have no interest in where they are going or what's going on.
7) When a close relationship ends, they may urgently seek another relationship to provide the support and care they need. They have a belief that they are unable to function in the absence of a close relationship, so this is a high motivator for them to quickly and indiscriminately bond with others.
8) Often preoccupied with fears of being left to care for themselves. Even where there are no grounds to justify these fears, they'll have them...completely excessive and unrealistic.
A clinician has to take into consideration the cultural background of the client when looking at this disorder. There are some cultures where passivity, politeness and deferential treatment are considered normal. That said, Dependent Personality Disorder is among the most frequently reported PDs in mental health clinics. Seems to be more common in women, but a clinician would also have to take a look at gender roles from the client's background and culture.
So, an interesting personality disorder to be sure. You can imagine how easy it would be for a person like this to end up in an abusive relationship. And they attract them so easily. I tried to find some recent studies between spouses in abusive relationships (and even spouses of alcoholics) to see if the woman who usually stays with the abuser is more likely to be Dependent personality Disorder, but couldn't. If anyone knows any links about this, please share.
Q4U: Any of you out there writing about someone dependent like this? What possibilities could be in store for them (realistically) for a character arc? I, for one, would stay away from it...just because the possibility of a person like this reaching a place of wholeness and having healthy relationships by the end of the book would be slim (unless the book spanned a long length of time, maybe). Thoughts?