By Cynthia Sass (byline)
Dependent Personality Disorder is characterized as an excessive reliance on another person to satisfy one’s own emotional and physical needs. There is an overwhelming desire to be taken care of and, essentially, to be told what to do and how to feel about even the simplest things. Making everyday decisions are extremely difficult for people with Dependent Personality Disorder, unless they get vast amounts of reassurance and guidance from a partner. However, simply being submissive and needy in a relationship is not enough to mean that an individual suffers from Dependent Personality Disorder. The behavior is not considered a disorder unless it is pervasive, has persisted for a long duration (since adolescence or young adulthood), and causes impairment in important areas of life, such as relationships, work or school. The onset of Dependent Personality Disorder tends to happen in young adulthood and can affect both men and women. Although a men’s treatment center could provide needed assistance, many men with Dependent Personality Disorder do not seek help. Additionally, Dependent Personality Disorder in men might be underdiagnosed.
Symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder
To be diagnosed with Dependent Personality Disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition, an individual must exhibit a persistent and excessive need to be taken care of, resulting in submissiveness and clinging, as seen through five or more of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of guidance and reassurance from someone else
- Requiring someone else to be responsible for important aspects of life
- Trouble disagreeing with others, fearing alienation
- Problems initiating projects due to lack of confidence in judgment and abilities
- Willingness to go to great lengths, even doing extremely unpleasant tasks or making great sacrifices, to get support and approval from someone else
- Feeling helpless and uneasy when alone, fearing an inability to care for self
- Intense desire to replace a relationship that has ended with a new relationship and someone who will provide care and support
- Obsessive fear of being left alone to take care of self
Does Dependent Personality Disorder Affect Men and Women Differently?
Dependent Personality Disorder does not appear to affect men and women differently, but it is diagnosed in women more than men. Men also are less likely to seek help from a men’s treatment center for Dependent Personality Disorder. Some researchers believe that gender bias may account for the disparity in diagnoses and treatment. The idea is that social roles have conditioned men and women to manifest personality traits in different ways. And, society tends to view those manifestations as either feminine or masculine. Thus, while men and women may both exhibit dependent behaviors, women tend to express dependence as submissiveness and neediness. On the other hand, men tend to be more self-effacing and clingy in ways that could be perceived as aggressive, simply because they are male. Studies have shown that doctors may assign personality disorders, where symptoms are typically viewed as socially feminine, to females while overlooking the same symptoms in males. The result is that men generally are not diagnosed with conditions like Dependent Personality Disorder unless the symptoms are unusually pronounced. In a nutshell, because symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder are considered feminine by definition, they are attributed more often to women than to men.
Men who suffer from Dependent Personality Disorder can find help at a men’s treatment center that deals with personality disorders. Treatment for Dependent Personality Disorder generally includes cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, psychodynamic therapy and, in some cases, medication. Sources: The Existence, Causes and Solutions of Gender Bias in the Diagnosis of Personality Disorders Dependent Personality Disorder Gender Role and Personality Disorders 4 Working With Specific Populations of Men in Behavioral Health Settings