See if you can identify this story: When she was a little girl, her mother died. Soon thereafter, her father remarried a woman who had two young daughters about her age. It was not long before her father passed away as well, and her stepmother’s true nature was revealed. She was forced to become the family’s servant. She complied with their every whim and accepted their every criticism. As time passed, she lost her own sense of self until her animal friends and fairy-Godmother came to her rescue. Now, she is living happily ever after with her prince charming. Who is the main character of this story? Cinderella is an easy story to identify. Most people know the storyline, but what most people do not know is that Cinderella’s life aligns closely with the symptoms of a mental disorder: Dependent Personality Disorder.
Sometimes called “The Cinderella Complex,” people who have Dependent Personality Disorder may comply easily with the caretakers and authority figures in their lives and willingly accept criticism from them. They often have low self-esteem and believe that they cannot take care of their own needs. Therefore, they look to others for their support, guidance, and provision (or in Cinderella’s case, deliverance). Dependent Personality Disorder brings a number of challenges into an individual’s personal and professional life, but a number of treatments have proven effective in treating the disorder. Dependency is not an inevitably—independence is often worth fighting for.
“You are constantly invited to be what you are.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thriveworks Counseling in Raleigh offers appointments for Dependent Personality Disorder, and we have worked with many clients who are fighting for independence. We understand how dependency functions and what it takes to find freedom.
Risk Factors of Dependency
It is important to know what Dependent Personality Disorder is and what it is not. First, what dependency is not: a stage of development or a cultural practice. Many cultures practice deference to authority figures. Certain practices, when viewed in isolation, may overlap with Dependent Personality Disorder. However, when viewed within the larger context, it is clear that these cultural practices are not a disorder but away that people can show respect. Similarly, children and teens rely upon their caregivers for their well-being. While children depend upon their parents or guardians, this is not a disorder either—it is a natural stage of development.
While Dependent Personality Disorder can develop at any time, it is most often diagnosed in early adulthood. Often, an individual with the disorder is unable to transition from adolescence into independence. When people have the disorder, their risk for other depressive, personality, anxiety, and adjustment disorders also rises. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines for the full diagnostics for Dependent Personality Disorder (301.6[F70.7]).
Recognizing Dependent Personality Disorder’s
Dependency is about the way a person thinks as well as about the way a person behaves. Certain untrue thinking patterns that are untrue hold people down into dependency. Two particularly destructive beliefs are different sides of the same coin. Dependency can teach people that they are incapable of meeting their own material and psychological needs, and thus, they must rely upon other people to meet those needs. It naturally follows that people with the disorder struggle with anxiety, self-degradation, and clinginess.
The DSM-5 gives the full diagnostics of Dependent Personality Disorder’s behaviors and emotions that may flow from these thoughts:
- Behavior that is very deferential.
- A core need for someone to provide for them.
- Anxiety when disconnected from care givers.
In addition, a minimum of five of these symptoms will be present:
- Seeking advice and reassurance for any and every decision made…from what to study in school to where to eat dinner to which color sweater to buy.
- Being uncomfortable alone and going extreme to never be by oneself.
- Handing over responsibility and authority of major areas within one’s life to an authority figure or caretaker (e.g., having someone else pay the bills).
- Conforming one’s own values, beliefs, ideas, thoughts, and preferences to align with other people and ensure their continued support and nurture.
- Deep-seated fear of being abandoned by an authority figure or caregiver.
- Being overly compliant with an authority figure’s demands.
- When an authority or caretaking relationship ends, hopping quickly to another.
Dependent Personality Disorder severely limits a person’s ability to function well in their personal and professional life. Professionally, employment is often an issue. People with the disorder may have challenges finding or maintaining a job. Personally, people with the disorder often have limited social circles. Mutual relationships can be difficult for them because these relationships tend to escalate into caretaking relationships.
Scheduling Counseling at Thriveworks in Raleigh for Dependent Personality Disorder
Dependent Personality Disorder can introduce severe challenges into an individual’s life, but it is possible to live a unique, independent life. Many therapeutic strategies have proven effective in healing dependency and equipping people to live in self-reliance. If you are ready to seek treatment for your dependency, consider reaching out to Thriveworks Counseling in Raleigh, NC. When you contact our office, a scheduling specialist will answer your call and help you make an appointment. New clients often meet with their therapist within 24 hours of their first call. Weekend and evening sessions are offered, but we do not put our clients on a waitlist. We also accept many difference insurance plans and work with many different insurance companies. Let’s work together. Call today.