Dependent Personality Disorder, What is it and Can it Be Hereditary?

There is a belief among some medical professionals that dependent personality disorder has a genetic component. Is this the case?

In this Mental Health Guide we look at dependent personality disorder, what it’s causes might be and the treatments that have proven to be effective.

Defining Dependent Personality Disorder

A person with this type of antisocial disorder demonstrates a consistent need to be taken care of, to be nurtured. Everyone wants to know that they are cared for, but in the person with dependent personality disorder, it rises to the level of an obsession.

There is a corresponding fear of being abandoned. The result is often that the person’s relationships are characterized by dependent, even submissive, behavior that is given in exchange for being taken care of.

In common language, people with dependent personality disorder are often associated with mood disorders because they tend to be “clingy” or “needy.” This behavior stems from the individual’s fear of being abandoned and left alone without a caregiver.

Symptoms Associated with Dependent Personality Disorder

The symptoms of this disorder include poor self-esteem and self-doubt, pessimism about the future and a willingness to receive criticism that is unfair or unfounded. The criticism tends to reinforce their negative view of themselves. The symptoms affect the individuals relationships and often their vocational pursuits.

The individual may have a very difficult time making decisions in their daily life about even routine things. They may avoid responsibility because they do not believe they can handle it. Expressing disagreement with others is difficult because the person doesn’t think they have a right to an independent view or are very insecure about their views. If they are involved in a romantic relationship that ends, they will quickly seek to find another one and become dependent upon that person.

The Causes of Dependent Personality Disorder

While no genetic cause has yet been proven, most researchers do believe that there is a hereditary component to dependent personality disorder. This belief stems from research that shows it tends to run in families. Of course, this could also mean that it is influenced by the way the individual was raised, with the characteristics of the disorder being nurtured in children.

It has also been shown that children with severe separation anxiety are more likely to develop dependent personality disorder. Chronic illness in childhood has also been linked to the disorder. If there is a consensus about the causes, it is that more than one factor is responsible for this personality disorder.

Treatment for Dependent Personality Disorder

The most effective treatment is long-term psychotherapy with a therapist with good training and experience in treating dependent personality disorder. Often the symptoms of the disorder such as the fear of being abandoned create significant anxiety. Medication for the anxiety disorder can be effective in helping the individual focus on the psychotherapy and benefit from it.