Buster Bluth was hiding under a conference table. He had just finished running his first business meeting with employees of his father’s real estate company, or more accurately, he had just finished attempting to run his first business meeting. After their father’s arrest, the other Bluth brothers walked away from the business, so Buster stepped up. The only problem was that Buster’s first day on the job was literally his first day on any job. In his three decades of living, Buster had barely taken care of himself much less anyone else. Instead, he lived at home, and his mother provided for his every need. Buster, in turn, lived to please her, even zipping up her dresses whenever she called to him, “zip me up!” On the show Arrested Development, Buster was the infantile character who produced a lot of laughs, but he was also a caricature—an extreme illustration of what it is like to have Dependent Personality Disorder.
Buster is a funny guy, but the disorder is a serious illness. People with Dependent Personality Disorder face many personal and professional problems. They often need a caretaker or authority figure to please. They usually have low self-esteem and do not trust themselves to provide for their own needs. When people have the disorder, they often do not make the transition into adulthood and remain in a perpetual adolescence. Living their own, unique, independent life is often difficult if not impossible for people with the disorder. Dependent Personality Disorder is a severe illness, but it has effective treatments. When people work with a mental health professional, they often learn how to live a self-reliant, autonomous life.
“Man’s life is independent.
He is born not for the development of the society alone,
but for the development of his self.”
—B. R. Ambedkar
That is why Thriveworks Conway offers therapy for Dependent Personality Disorder. Our therapists have helped many people find the treatment they need and learn how to live the unique life they deserve.
Red Flags for Dependent Personality Disorder
Two key beliefs undergird Dependent Personality Disorder: People tell themselves that they are incapable of providing for their own psychological, financial, material, and emotional needs. People also tell themselves that others (specifically, authority figures) must provide for their needs. These two beliefs can fuel many, many difficulties in an individual’s life. When people have Dependent Personality Disorder, they often feel incapable. They may suffer from separation anxiety when they are away from authority figures. They are often clingy and have difficulty accurately assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Instead, they over-emphasize their fault and underestimate their abilities.
A full description of the disorder is given in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The signs for Dependent Personality Disorder (301.6[F70.7]) are:
- Fear of separation.
- A need to be cared for.
- Submissive behavior.
For a diagnosis to be made, at least five of the following will be present as well:
- Needing reassurance and advice for everyday decisions. For example, having a parent check over one’s grocery list or calling to ask permission to purchase a new pair of jeans.
- Experiencing discomfort with one’s individuality and independence.
- Giving responsibility of significant areas of one’s life over to an authority figure. For example, having a parent pay one’s bills.
- Fearing abandonment—particularly if it means caring for oneself.
- Going to extremes to ensure the nurture and support of one’s caregivers. For example, downplaying one’s true opinions or feelings to secure someone’s care.
- Being overly compliant with what others believe.
- When one caretaking relationship ends, quickly establishing a new relationship that provides for one’ needs.
- Difficulty building and maintaining mutual relationships that do not morph into caretaking relationships.
Even a passing glance at these symptoms shows the disruption that Dependent Personality Disorder can have in an individual’s life. Often, their personal and professional lives are severely handicapped. They may lack the confidence and initiative to advance in their careers. The disorder also raises an individual’s risk for other problems, such as anxiety and depression.
Treating Dependent Personality Disorder
“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”
—Michel de Montaigne
The treatment plan for Dependent Personality Disorder must focus upon self-reliance and independence. The mental health professional cannot become another caregiver and authority figure in a client’s life. In order to achieve this goal, there are several options for treatment, including…
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: this therapy looks at the disordered thought patterns that fuel the disorder. It seeks to help clients recognize those thoughts so that they can be replaced with positive, true thoughts.
- Medication: as part of a holistic plan for healing, some clients may need medication. In particular, if someone is also suffering from depression and/or anxiety, medication combined with therapy may allow people to make progress in long-term healing.
- Psychodynamic therapy: this therapy focuses upon how and when the dependency formed. It is a long-term therapy, but it has proven effective in treating Dependent Personality Disorder. It seeks to get to the root of the harm caused by the disorder.
Treatment at Thriveworks Conway
If you are ready to meet with a mental health professional about your dependency, know that the therapists at Thriveworks Conway are ready to meet with you. When you call our office, your first appointment may be the following day. We accept many different forms of insurance, and we offer evening and weekend sessions. Call today.