Most people have heard this story: When a young girl’s father dies, her stepmother and two stepsisters turn her into the family’s servant. This young girl does the cooking and cleaning without fail and without thanks. She complies with her stepmother’s demands and appeases her stepsister’s picky requests. Instead of making her own decisions, the young girl relies upon her animal friends, her fairy Godmother, and her prince to rescue her. Cinderella is a difficulty story to disguise because it is so well-known, but what people may not know is that the story is also an illustration of Dependent Personality Disorder, which is sometimes called “The Cinderella Complex.” Initially used to diagnose women who feared independence, mental health professionals came to understand that both women and men, old and young, poor and rich can suffer from Dependent Personality Disorder.
A need to be provided for, low self-esteem, an acute desire to please, and difficulty with mutually-beneficial relationships are the key characteristics of the disorder. It presents many professional and personal difficulties in a person’s life, but it also has treatments. Mental health professionals can often tailor a treatment plan to meet an individual’s needs and promote self-reliance and individuality.
“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 therapists at Thriveworks Marietta have worked with many clients who have Dependent Personality Disorder. We understand how the disorder works and how people may learn how to live resourceful, independent lives.
How Dependent Personality Disorder May Develop
Diagnosing the disorder can be difficult because certain developmental stages or cultural practices can look very much like Dependent Personality Disorder. Children into their late teens rely upon their parents to provide for their needs. This is not a disordered dependence, but it is developmentally appropriate. Similarly, in some cultures, it is respectful to defer to those in authority. Again, this is not a disorder, but such behavior is culturally appropriate.
Because of these factors, it is important for mental health professionals to carefully diagnose the disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines the diagnostics for Dependent Personality Disorder (301.6[F70.7]). Often, the condition develops as people transition from adolescence into adulthood. They often have difficulty making that change and enter into a fully self-sufficient maturity. Further, the disorder increases an individual’s risk of other anxiety, depression, personality, and adjustment disorders.
Dependent Personality Disorder: Signs and Symptoms
When people have Dependent Personality Disorder, they often tell themselves two untrue things: that they cannot provide for their own needs and that they must rely upon others for their care. People with the disorder often feel intense separation anxiety when they are not near their authority figures. They are often clingy and have difficulty being in reciprocal relationships. Further, they often accept criticism without question and are overly compliant. Many times, people with the disorder are their own worst critics and belittle their own capability.
The three major signs for Dependent Personality Disorder are:
- Behavior that is overly deferential.
- Anxiety when separated from care givers.
- A core need for someone to care for them.
A minimum of five other symptoms will also be displayed:
- Consulting with an authority figure or caretaker for advice and resassurance before making everyday decisions (e.g., calling a caregiver to consult about where to eat dinner).
- Fear of being alone.
- Abdicating a significant portion of responsibility within one’s life (e.g., allowing a parent to pay one’s bills).
- Sacrificing or hiding one’s true identity, feelings, thoughts, and views in order appease a caregiver or authority figure and ensure their continued provision.
- Being overly compliant to a caretaker’s wishes, beliefs, thoughts, and more.
- When a caretaking relationship ends, quickly replacing it with another.
Even a passing glance at these signs and symptoms will show that Dependent Personality Disorder can severely disrupt an individual’s life. People with the disorder often suffer personally and professionally because of it. They often have limited friends and social circles because any mutual relationship can morph into a caretaking relationship. Professionally, people with the disorder often have difficulty finding and maintaining employment. They often lack initiative and confidence which may lead to poor work performance.
Setting Up Therapy at Thriveworks Marietta for Dependent Personality Disorder
Dependent Personality Disorder does not have to steal people’s uniqueness and their abilities. It is a serious illness, but there are several therapies available that have been used to help others find their way as a self-sufficient individual. Some people benefit from cognitive behavior therapy; others are aided by psychodynamic therapy. Medication may be helpful as well. Skilled therapists can develop a holistic and personalized treatment plan. The mental health professionals at Thriveworks Marietta have worked with many clients who has Dependent Personality Disorder.
“You are constantly invited to be what you are.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you call our office to make an appointment, here are a few things that would be helpful to know. A scheduling specialist will answer your call and help you schedule a session. We do not have a voicemail. Weekend and evening sessions are offered, and we accept many different forms of insurance. Let’s work toward independence. Call Thriveworks Marietta, GA today.