Cinderella is a familiar story to most, but what people do not usually know is that that story also illustrates a serious disorder. Dependent Personality Disorder is sometimes called “The Cinderella Complex” because she displays many of its major symptoms. Think about it. Cinderella complies with every exorbitant demand that her stepsisters give. She accepts her stepmother’s criticism wholesale. Instead of planning her own escape, Cinderella allows others to intervene on her behalf: her fairy Godmother and animal friends. Then, as she escapes from servanthood, she runs into the care of her prince charming. People who suffer from Dependent Personality Disorder experience many of the same symptoms.
The disorder or complex are marked by low self-esteem, a deep desire to please an authority figure, the need to be cared for, and challenges within mutual relationships. People who have it often experience exorbitant difficulties in their personal and professional lives, but these challenges are not inevitable. Several treatments have proven effective in helping people learn to live their own, unique lives. Skilled therapists often create personalized and holistic treatment plans that help people heal from the dependency and learn how to live independently.
“Every human has four endowments—self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom…
The power to choose, to respond, to change.”
The counselors at Thriveworks Lynchburg have helped many clients who have Dependent Personality Disorder. Our professionals know what it takes to overcome dependency and help their clients live a unique, independent life.
The Development of Dependent Personality Disorder
Whenever Dependent Personality Disorder is diagnosed, it is important to be aware of how it develops. Certain cultural practices and/or child development stages can overlap with some of the symptoms of the disorder without an individual having it. For example, it is perfectly natural for a child or teen to rely upon a caregiver or consult them for many decisions. This is not dependence, unless a fully-grown adult is displaying such behavior. Similarly, certain cultures defer more to authority figures. This, in and of itself, is not dependence either. Because of these factors, Dependent Personality Disorder (301.6[F70.7]) is often not diagnosed until adulthood. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) gives the full criteria for making a diagnosis, but often, the disorder becomes clear as people move into adulthood or more accurately, they do not move into adulthood. Instead, many people with the disorder remain in the adolescent stage of development.
Signs and Symptoms of Dependency
Two untrue, negative thoughts often fuel the behaviors of Dependent Personality Disorder. These thoughts are the different sides of the same coin. First, dependency teaches people that they are incapable of supplying their own emotional, social, economic, physical, and spiritual needs. Second, dependency teaches people that others must supply those needs. Because people with the disorder look to others instead of their own, inner strength, they are often clingy and feel separation anxiety. It is often challenging for them to be in friendships that are reciprocal. Dependency turns people into their own worst critics who minimize their own strengths and emphasize their own weaknesses.
According to the DSM-5, the signs of Dependent Personality Disorder include:
- Behavior that is overly deferential.
- A core need for someone to care for them.
- Anxiety when separated from care givers.
At least five other symptoms will be present as well:
- Fear of being alone.
- Getting permission, advice, and reassurance from an authority figure before making everyday decisions, like clothes to buy or where to eat out.
- Handing over responsibility of significant portions of one’s life to a caretaking (for example, parents who pay a grown child’s bills).
- Hiding one’s thoughts, feelings, preferences, and perspectives in order to satisfy an authority figure and guarantee their support.
- Complying with a caretaker’s every belief, wish, and thought.
- Replacing one caretaking relationship with another if one ends.
- Fear of abandonment.
It is easy to see how disruptive dependency can be within a person’s life. Professionally, people with the disorder often have difficulty procuring a job and advancing within a career because they lack initiative and self-confidence. Personally, people often have limited social circles. Further, the disorder raises their risk for other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and other personality and adjustment disorders.
Scheduling Therapy at Thriveworks Lynchburg for Dependent Personality Disorder
It is possible for those who suffer from dependency to learn how to live their unique life and value their unique abilities. Dependent Personality is a severe disorder, but it is also a disorder that has treatments. Many people learn to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Various therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy have proven effective, as have medications in certain cases. Skilled therapists can find a plan that works for each individual client.
“You are constantly invited to be what you are.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you are ready to meet with a mental health professional about your dependency, Thriveworks Lynchburg is ready to meet with you. When you contact our office, know that a real person (not a voicemail) will answer and help you schedule an appointment. You may be meeting with your therapist the following day. We accept many different insurance plans, and we offer evening and weekend appointments. Fighting to live your own, unique life is worth it. Let’s fight together. Call Thriveworks Lynchburg today.