How I Recovered from Dependent Personality Disorder: The Treatment That Gave me my Freedom
Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a pattern of thoughts and behaviors characterized by needing to be taken care of by others, fear of being rejected or alone, low self-esteem and self-confidence, difficulty making decisions independently, and generally being unable to manage responsibilities. DPD causes significant dysfunction, but it can be managed with therapy that helps develop self-esteem, independence, and better relationship skills.
I have always struggled to be independent. I love to have other people take care of me, and I doubt every decision I make on my own. I was recently diagnosed with dependent personality disorder. I didn’t believe it until I delved into therapy during treatment.
I learned that my patterns of negative thoughts about myself were damaging but that I could change them. I learned to trust myself, to be more confident in my abilities, and to have healthier relationships with my family, friends, and romantic partners.
Dependent personality disorder, or DPD, is one of several types of personality disorders. A personality disorder is a mental illness characterized by stubborn, abnormal, and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. These negatively impact functioning in relationships, in social situations, at work or school, and in other situations.
One of the most damaging aspects of personality disorders is that when you’re experiencing one, it is extremely difficult to see that there is anything wrong with the way you think or behave. This is why it took me so long to get treatment for DPD. What my family saw in me that eventually led to a diagnosis was:
- An inability to make decisions without their input
- Difficulty spending any time alone
- Avoiding responsibility for even the most basic things
- Difficulty functioning independently
- A need to please everyone around me
- A deep fear of being abandoned by them
- Poor self-esteem and low self-confidence
- Complete devastation after the end of a relationship with a boyfriend
- Allowing a boyfriend to be emotionally abusive
It was this last sign of DPD that broke my parents and finally pushed them to push me to get help. I have always felt as if I need the validation and support of other people in order to do anything. I thought if I didn’t have a relationship I would be lost. So when my last boyfriend got really mean, and even hit me a couple of times, I let him.
I received a diagnosis of DPD because my patterns were clear: I thought I needed other people to meet my emotional needs; I feared being alone or doing anything without someone else’s help; I had no confidence in myself at all; and I let others walk all over me.
What Pushed Me to Get Treatment
It was the end of my last relationship that convinced me to get help. While my parents had been pushing me for a long time before that, I didn’t see what they saw. When my boyfriend left me, I sank into a serious depression for a couple weeks. I found I couldn’t function alone and had to go home to stay with my parents.
Realizing that I could not live alone and that I had allowed by boyfriend to treat me badly finally pushed me to follow my parents’ advice and see someone for a diagnosis. Even then, I didn’t really think there was anything wrong with me. It’s only after treatment that I see more clearly how damaging my relationships and choices were. I recommend anyone in a similar situation listen very carefully to what their loved ones say. They see your harmful behaviors better than you do.
Choosing Residential Treatment for DPD
My parents were so supportive, and it was natural for me to rely on them to find a solution to my problem. After getting the diagnosis of DPD, they gave me options for treatment but insisted I make the final choice. I went with residential treatment. To be honest, it was because I knew it would mean being surrounded by caregivers.
My motives and reasoning weren’t perfect, but residential treatment turned out to be the best decision I could make. I really benefited from several aspects of this kind of care, including being able to leave all other responsibilities at home and focus on my own well-being in a safe place.
It was also really useful to be around other people struggling with similar issues. I learned in treatment that my approach to relationships was highly flawed. Being in a supportive, social environment in treatment really helped me practice building better relationships and social skills.
Causes of Dependent Personality Disorder
One of the aspects of treatment that really helped motivate me to make positive changes was coming to a better understanding of what may have contributed to my personality disorder. My therapist helped me connect some of the natural aspects of my temperament and how I was as a child with the DPD that I later developed.
As a kid, I struggled with anxiety disorder, and so did my mom. I was afraid of new things and very cautious. I tried to avoid what scared me, like going to school, making new friends, trying a new sport, or being without my parents. My dad tended to push me to try new things, but my mom, cautious like me, often gave in and let me stay home a lot. Now I can see how she sheltered me and was overly protective. No one really knows what causes DPD, but these kinds of personality traits I had, the relationship with my mother, and my anxiety probably contributed.
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Therapy – The Best Treatment for Dependent Personality Disorder
I learned in residential care that there is no cure for a personality disorder and no medication for it. I also learned that the best way to manage DPD and change my negative thought and behavior patterns was to work through all my issues with a good therapist. Immediately I was eager to please and wanted to let my therapist take care of me, but what she helped me realize was that I needed to do the work myself. She was simply my guide.
We worked mostly with cognitive behavioral therapy. My therapist helped me explore my past and how that contributed to DPD, but also how my choices as an adult made my symptoms worse. With this therapy I had concrete things I could do, steps to take to make real changes to the way I think about myself and relationships to others. From these changes I could then take action to do things differently and make better choices.
In treatment, I practiced being more assertive, making decisions on my own, including choices about my own care, and reacting in more productive ways to other people and developing positive new friendships.
I also benefited from taking charge of other aspects of my well-being. I learned how to cook and make healthy food choices. I learned how to meditate and do yoga to cope with anxiety. I even went on an adventure therapy session, something I would never have done before treatment. All of this helped build my self-confidence and prepared me to be more independent going back home.
DPD has been a difficult condition to live with and to manage. But with treatment I feel hopeful about my future. I moved out of my parents’ house two months ago and have been single and comfortable living alone and not being in a relationship. Sometimes I still slip up, and I try to get my parents to make decisions for me, but then I remember what I learned in treatment and what I’m capable of, that I can trust myself to be independent.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to lasting wellness.