Buster Bluth walked into a meeting at his father’s business. He was trying his hand at real estate development. A few days earlier, Buster’s father had been arrested and his older brothers quit the business in frustration. Even though Buster had never worked in his 30 years of life, he stepped up. Unfortunately, Buster could not even take care of himself, much less his employees. As concerned workers asked relevant questions, Buster hid under the conference table, whispering, “you guys are so smart.” Buster Bluth may provide more laughs than any other character on Arrested Development, but he also provides a caricature of what it looks like to have Dependent Personality Disorder, a severe mental illness that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for people to live their own, unique, self-reliant lives.
Buster is an extreme example of the disorder, but the core symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder are handicapping his life. For example, when people have the disorder, they are often overly docile and live to please an authority figure. Because of the disorder, they rarely have accurate self-awareness, but instead, they over-emphasize their weaknesses and under-value their strengths. Low self-esteem means they looks to others for their own financial, psychological, material, and emotional needs. Dependent Personality Disorder can severely hinder a person’s life; however, the disorder has effective treatments.
“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
The therapists at Thriveworks Austin have worked with many dependent people who were battling for the development of self. People are supposed to be unique individuals with their own preferences, feelings, thoughts, and responsibilities. When Dependent Personality Disorder steals their independence, it is worth fighting back and fighting for independence.
Dependent Personality Disorder’s Signs
One of the biggest indicators of Dependent Personality Disorder is an individual’s thinking pattern. For example, two particularly harmful thoughts are almost always present. They are two sides of the same coin. The disorder often teaches people that they cannot provide for themselves, and thus, they must have other people take care of them. When people believe these things about themselves and about others, they are often filled with anxiety and can become clingy in their relationships. The disorder can show in in a variety of ways in an individual’s life. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) give three signs of Dependent Personality Disorder (301.6[F70.7]) that will be present:
- A need to be cared for.
- Submissive behavior.
- Fear of separation.
In addition, five of these signs will also be present:
- Seeking out reassurance and advice for almost every decision (e.g., which pair of jeans to buy, where to eat for lunch, and more).
- Difficulty establishing and maintaining reciprocal relationships (i.e., relationships tend to escalate into caretaking).
- Giving over responsibility of all or significant parts of one’s life (e.g., having a parent pay the bills).
- Experiencing an acute fear of being alone or abandonment by an authority figure (especially if it means having to care for oneself).
- Going to extremes to please a caregiver and ensure their continued nurture and support (e.g., how Buster Bluth will even zip up his mother’s dresses when called).
- Downplaying one’s true opinions, thoughts, feelings, and perspectives in order to please an authority figure (i.e., giving up one’s identity in exchange for care).
- Quickly replacing any caretaking relationship that ends.
- Feeling discomfort at the idea of one’s individuality and independence.
Even a glance at these symptoms shows the devastation they can cause in a person’s life. Dependent Personality Disorder can hold people back in their personal and professional life. People often have difficulty finding and maintaining a job, much less advancing in a career. They often lack initiative and are insecure in the workplace. They are also at greater risk for other mental health disorders, including a host of anxiety and depression disorders.
Healing from Dependency and Learning Independence
“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”
—Michel de Montaigne
Belonging to oneself is the goal of treatment for Dependent Personality Disorder. Everyone deserves to be independent and free and self-reliant. The goal is the same, but the path for each client will be different. There are many options for treatment, and a skilled mental health professional can tailor a treatment plan that may include…
- Psychodynamic therapy: A form of therapy that explores how the dependency came about, what psychological wounds it has caused, and how those wounds can be healed. This therapy focuses upon long-term healing, and it often requires time to be effective. However, psychodynamic therapy often provides holistic and thorough healing.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: A form of therapy that looks at the untrue and negative thoughts that fuel the disorder. When these thoughts are identified, they can often be replaced with true, positive thoughts.
- Medication: For some, an antidepressant may bring a relief that allows them to build their coping skills and focus upon healing. Medication is often coupled with a form of therapy to be most effective in the long-term.
Scheduling Counseling at Thriveworks Austin for Dependent Personality Disorder
If you are ready to work with a mental health professional, know that Thriveworks Austin offers therapy for Dependent Personality Disorder. When you call our office, your first appointment may be the following day. We also accept many different insurance plan. Call today.