When Buster Bluth’s father was arrested, he was left to take over the family’s real estate business. Buster’s older brothers had resigned from the company in frustration, so he stepped up. The only problem is that Buster’s first meeting with employees was literally his first business meeting on his first day of work. In his over thirty years of life, Buster had lived at home, never worked, and fulfilled his mother’s every whim, even zipping up her dresses when called. Buster could not take care of himself, much less a company with dozens of employees. He finished his first business meeting hiding under the conference table. As his employees continued to ask him questions, he whispered, “you guys are so smart.” Buster’s character on Arrested Development provides some of the show’s biggest laughs, but he is also a caricature for Dependent Personality Disorder.
Buster Bluth, in an extreme way, displays the classic signs of Dependent Personality Disorder. He struggles with low self-esteem and lives to please an authority figure (his mother). Buster also depends upon that authority figure and does not trust himself to take care of his own needs. His social circle is limited to family, and Buster has difficulty with reciprocal friendships as his relationships all evolve into dependency. Buster is a funny character, but it is easy to see that this disorder is not funny in real life. Dependent Personality Disorder introduces many personal and professional handicaps into an individual’s life. It is a serious mental illness, but it is also a disorder that has viable treatment options.
If you or someone you know is struggling with dependency, know that it is possible to live an independent, self-reliant life. The therapists at Thriveworks Cambridge have worked with many clients who have Dependent Personality Disorder and helped them become their unique, capable self.
Dependent Personality Disorder: What Is It?
Two powerful but untrue beliefs undergird and fuel Dependent Personality Disorder. First, people with the disorder believe they care incapable—that they cannot fulfill and take responsibility for their own psychological and mental needs. Second, people with the disorder believe that others must provide for them. These negative and false thought patterns are two sides of the same coin, and they lead to a number of negative behaviors that undermine a person’s individuality. People with the disorder are often anxious and clingy in relationships. They are their own worst critics—downplaying their skills and emphasizing their faults.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines the diagnostics for Dependent Personality Disorder (301.6[F70.7]) in detail. The primary signs are:
- A need to be cared for.
- Submissive behavior.
- Fear of separation.
People with the disorder will also have at least five of the following:
- Seeking reassurance and advice about everyday choices from a caretaker or authority figure. For example, calling a parent about where to eat out or which color sweater to buy.
- Experiencing discomfort with one’s individuality.
- Fearing having to provide for oneself.
- Abdicating responsibility within significant areas of one’s life. For example, having another person pay one’s bills.
- Going to great lengths to ensure a caregiver’s nurture and support, even compromising one’s values or identity.
- Experiencing an intense fear of abandonment.
- Being overly compliant with what other’s believe and think. For example, yielding to everything, from which movie to see to which political party to support.
- Hopping from one caretaker to another whenever a relationship ends.
- Fear of being alone.
Reading through these symptoms should also give a clear picture of the ways that Dependent Personality Disorder inhibits an individual’s professional and social life. Personally, people with the disorder have difficulty connecting with other people. They are also at greater risk of developing other mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Professionally, people with the disorder often lack initiative and confidence—two important factors in gaining and maintaining employment.
Dependent Personality Disorder Treatment Options
“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”
—Michel de Montaigne
Dependency can severely hinder an individual’s ability to function well in life, but it is possible to live a unique and independent life. One particular challenge to healing is that the therapist cannot become another dependent relationship or caregiver. Therapy must focus upon building self-reliance. In order to do so, there are several options for treatment, depending upon a particular individual’s needs. For example, a holistic treatment plan may include elements such as…
Cognitive behavioral therapy: This treatment looks at the disordered beliefs that the disorder teaches people. It helps individuals identify untrue thinking patterns, such as, “I cannot provide for my own needs.” It helps people see the truth, that they are capable people.
- Medication: Some people need the symptoms of the disorder to be relieved in the short term so that they can focus upon long term healing. Medication may be particularly helpful for people who are also struggling with depression or anxiety.
- Psychodynamic therapy: This treatment option has a long-term healing goal. It delves into how and why the dependency developed. It explores emotional and psychological wounds so that healing can be applied.
Scheduling Appointments at Thriveworks Cambridge
If you are struggling with dependency, consider reaching out for help. Thriveworks Cambridge treats Dependent Personality Disorder, and we have appointments available. When you call our office, your first appointment may be the following day. We also accept many different forms of insurance. Call today.