People who struggle with dependent personality disorder (DPD) and also take care of an addict must carefully evaluate their support to thrive in both areas. To make good decisions about the care you can provide, understand DPD, learn more about codependence and then carefully consider your needs and the addict’s.
What Is Dependent Personality Disorder?
According to the Dependent Personality Disorder article from WebMD, DPD is one of the most frequently diagnosed personality disorders. Occurring equally in men and women, this disorder usually becomes apparent in young adulthood or later as important adult relationships form. The most obvious symptom of DPD is becoming emotionally dependent upon other people and spending a great amount of effort trying to please them. As a result, patients often appear as needy and passive; they may demonstrate other behaviors that represent their sincere fear of separation. Other common characteristics of this personality disorder include the following list:
- Inability to make decisions without the advice and reassurance of others, even everyday ones, like what to wear
- Avoidance of adult responsibilities by acting passive and helpless. Dependence upon a spouse or friend to make decisions, like where to work and live.
- Intense fear of abandonment and a sense of devastation or helplessness when relationships end. Someone with DPD often moves right into another relationship when one ends.
- Oversensitivity to criticism
- Pessimism and lack of self-confidence, including a belief that they are unable to care for themselves
- Avoidance of disagreeing with others for fear of losing support or approval
- Inability to start projects or tasks because of a lack of self-confidence
- Difficulty being alone
- Willingness to tolerate mistreatment and abuse from others
- Placing the needs of their caregivers above their own
- Tendency to be naive and to fantasize
Diagnosing DPD requires a rather extensive investigation. First, the physician will conduct a complete medical exam to ensure that there are no physical explanations for the symptoms. This exam will also include a review of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications to see if any of those side effects cause problems. If someone receives a clean bill of physical health, then she is often referred to a mental health care professional for further evaluation.
DPD and Codependence
People with DPD often have a strong sense of codependence that limits their ability to care for an addict. The greatest obstacle here is that someone with DPD is a prime candidate for being an enabler. BPDFamily.com is the collective work of 75,000 members and over 3 million articles and posts—in their article, Codependency and Codependent Relationships, they describe how people with DPD find considerable rewards from being enablers. In a codependent relationship, the enabler receives the reward for feeling that he is needed, which means he will not be lonely, rejected nor abandoned when caring for an addict. Because people with DPD have a strong need for validation to find their own worth and identity, they can be easily manipulated by an addict. Furthermore, because their perceived contributions for the addict often yield poor results, their self-esteem can suffer.
Caring for an Addicted Loved One
Caring for an addict can be a heart-wrenching, emotionally draining and overwhelming experience. Therefore, people with DPD must set up strict parameters for care so that they do not end up enabling addiction. Enabling an addicted loved one benefits neither the drug user nor the person with DPD.
In their article, Helping a Family Member or Friend, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence describes the following healthy ways to care for an addicted loved one without enabling:
- Learn as much as possible about addiction
- Tell the addict about your concerns
- Offer support, but let her know that it cannot be at your expense
- Express love even when you are met with denial or anger
- Understand that addict cannot overcome addiction without treatment, support and new coping skills
- Stay involved during the addict’s treatment and afterwards
These valuable suggestions are useful for everyone. However, for someone with DPD, it is critical to avoid the following acts:
- Do not lecture, threaten, bribe, preach nor moralize
- Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to abuse substances
- Neither lie nor make excuses for the addict and her behavior
- Do not assume the addict’s responsibilities
- Do not feel guilty for the addict’s problems
By following these suggestions, you can balance the care you give yourself with the care you give your addicted loved one.
Learn More about DPD
You want to help your addicted loved one, but you need to take care of yourself first to ensure that the support you provide the addict does not harm you. This task may seem difficult, but we can help. Please call our toll-free helpline now, because our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have about treatment options.