After his father’s arrest, Buster Bluth stepped up and took over the family business. His older brothers had quit in frustration, so the responsibility fell to the youngest Bluth brother. His first day on the job was Buster’s first day on any job. His first meeting with employees was Buster’s first business meeting of any kind. In his more than thirty years of life, Buster had barely been prepared for anything, much less for leading a real-estate development business. He lives at home with his mother. She provides for his every need, and Buster, in turn, zips up her dresses. As employees asked him questions about their future, Buster responded by crawling under the conference room table. Under his breath, he reflected, “you guys are so smart.” Buster Bluth provides some of the biggest laughs in the show Arrested Development, but his character is also a caricature of what it looks like to have Dependent Personality Disorder.
In a funny but extreme way, Buster demonstrates the major symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder. In real life, the disorder is not a laughing matter. People with the disorder are often eager to please their caregivers and rely upon those caregivers to provide for their emotional and physical well-being. People with the disorder often have low self-esteem and feel incapable of fulfilling their own needs. Because of the disorder, people often have severely limited social circles—often just family members. Without question, Dependent Personality Disorder makes life harder in many ways. What is also without question is that the disorder can often be managed with treatment.
If you feel dependent upon another person for your well-being, know that help is available. The mental health professionals at Thriveworks Atlanta in Sandy Springs have helped many clients learn how to live a self-reliant, independent life, and we treat Dependent Personality Disorder.
An Unhealthy Dependency
All people rely upon others to some degree or another, but Dependent Personality Disorder is very different than allowing others to help you. The difference is illustrated in two beliefs that Dependent Personality Disorder teaches people: that they are helpless to provide for themselves and that others must then provide for them. These two disordered beliefs fuel a number of disordered behaviors.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) gives the full range of symptoms for someone who has Dependent Personality Disorder (301.6[F70.7]). The primary diagnostics are:
- Submissive behavior.
- A need to be cared for.
- Fear of separation.
- At least five of the following will also be present with Dependent Personality Disorder:
- While making big and small decisions, seeking advice and reassurance and assistance from someone in a caretaking or authority position.
- Feeling uncomfortable at the thought of one’s unique individuality and separateness from other people.
- Experiencing an acute fear of having to support oneself.
- Relinquishing responsibility and oversite of substantial portions of one’s life (e.g., having a parent pay one’s rent).
- Doing extreme things to guarantee someone’s support and nurture—even hiding one’s true thoughts, feelings, opinions, et cetera.
- Feeling an acute fear of abandonment—especially by a caregiver.
- Complying with what other people, especially authority figures, think, believe, and feel.
- Feeling an acute fear of being by oneself.
- When one caretaking relationship ends, quickly hopping to another caretaking relationship.
These symptoms paint a clear picture of the ways that Dependent Personality Disorder can hinder people’s ability to function well in life. In their personal lives, people with the disorder are at increased risk of other mental health problems, including other adjustment, personality, depressive, and anxiety disorders. They often have difficulty with mutual friendships and limited social circles. Professionally, people with the disorder may have difficulty finding or maintaining a job. They often lack initiative and confidence, two assets in a workplace.
Learning to Be Independent
“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”
—Michel de Montaigne
The roadblocks that Dependent Personality Disorder throw into an individual’s life are not inevitable. With treatment, many people learn to live their own independent, unique life. For therapy to be effective, one important pitfall must be avoided: the counselor cannot become another dependent relationship. Instead, treatment must focus upon healing the wounds of dependency and building the skills of independence. Here are a few tools that therapists can use to formulate a treatment plan…
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: focuses upon the false beliefs that fuel Dependent Personality Disorder, such as “I am incapable.” It seeks to help clients see these distortions for what they are so that they can then embrace positive, true beliefs, for example, “I may need help from time to time, but I can provide for myself.”
- Medication: a form of antidepressant may help people experience a short-term relief from their symptoms so that they can then focus upon long-term healing. For people who also have a depressive or anxiety disorder, medication may be particularly beneficial.
- Psychodynamic therapy: focuses upon the wounds of dependency, in particular how and why it developed. Its focus is deep healing. Psychodynamic therapy is a long-term commitment, but often, people find long-term healing.
Setting Up an Appointment at Thriveworks Atlanta in Sandy Springs
If you are ready to schedule an appointment, the professionals at Thriveworks Atlanta in Sandy Springs are ready to meet with you. When you contact our office, your first appointment may be the following day. We offer evening and weekend sessions, and we accept many different forms of insurance. Call today.