Are you over dependent?

Are you over dependent?

Dependency is vital but an originally infantile need for love, affection, shelter, protection, security, food, and warmth. From birth onwards children, like to be with and depend on parents for many things. Some children cling to the mother and don’t allow her to do her work.

Though I am a grown up girl, (19 yrs), I always depend on my mother even for the smallest things. I request her to stay by my side even when I am studying. I feel depressed and helpless when she goes out of town and often plead her not to go. I feel guilty for this but am unable to control. Please help me. - Girija, Mahaboobnagar.

Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. - Fritz Perls

Dependency is vital but an originally infantile need for love, affection, shelter, protection, security, food, and warmth. From birth onwards children, like to be with and depend on parents for many things. Some children cling to the mother and don’t allow her to do her work.

But when they grow up and enter adolescence, they slowly try to be independent and move towards their friends. Young boys and girls take choices of their own and feel frustrated if parents try to oppose their decisions. Thus, they develop their own identity through their own experimental way.

According to Dr.JohnSantrock, in developing an emotional autonomy, adolescents increasingly de-idealize their parents, perceive them as people rather than simply as parenting figures, and become less dependent on them for immediate emotional support.’ When this does not take place at the proper time in an adolescent’s development, the adolescent may begin to seek emotional dependency.

Dependent personality disorder

Dependent Personality Disorder is characterized by an excessive need to be taken care of and a fear of being abandoned or separated from important individuals in his or her life. This leads the person to engage in dependent and submissive behaviors that are designed to elicit care-giving behaviors in others. The dependent behavior may be seen as being “clingy” or “clinging on” to others, because the person fears they can’t live their lives without the help of others.

It is found in persons who have never been able to form a strong sense of self and who find purpose (and safety) living in the shadow of another. This condition can result in anxious, fearful, and insecure behavior than it can prevent the person from leading a full and fulfilling life; moreover, the resultant tendency to "cling" can cause anyone targeted by the person to feel suffocated.

Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder are often characterized by pessimism and self-doubt, tend to belittle their abilities and assets, and may constantly refer to themselves as “stupid.” They take criticism and disapproval as proof of their worthlessness and lose faith in themselves.

They may seek overprotection and dominance from others. Occupational functioning may be impaired if independent initiative is required. They may avoid positions of responsibility and become anxious when faced with decisions. Social relations tend to be limited to those few people on whom the individual is dependent.

People with DPD become emotionally dependent on other people and spend great effort trying to please others. People with DPD tend to display needy, passive, and clinging behavior, and have a fear of separation. Other common characteristics of this personality disorder include:

  • Inability to make decisions, even everyday decisions like what to wear, without the advice and reassurance of others.
  • Avoidance of adult responsibilities by acting passive and helpless. Dependence on 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.
  • 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.

People with DPD are at risk for depression, anxiety disorders, and phobias, as well as substance abuse. They are also at risk for being abused because they may find themselves willing to do virtually anything to maintain the relationship with a dominant partner or person of authority.

Causes of dependent personality disorder

It is commonly thought that the development of dependence in these individuals is a result of over-involvement and intrusive behavior by their parents. Parents may foster dependence in the child to meet their own dependency needs, and may reward extreme loyalty but reject attempts the child makes towards independence. Families of those with dependent personality disorder are often do not express their emotions and are controlling; they demonstrate poorly defined relational roles within the family.

Individuals with dependent personality disorder often have been socially humiliated by others in their developmental years. They may carry significant doubts about their abilities to perform tasks, take on new responsibilities, and generally function independently of others. This reinforces their suspicions that they are incapable of living autonomously. In response to these feelings, they portray a helplessness that elicits caregiving behavior from some people in their lives.

Many social psychologists viewed dependency as a ‘learned behavior’ which is acquired during infancy which helps to gratify one’s emotional needs like attention, recognition, praise or approval. Neglecting or over protective parenting style, directionlessness, fear of rejection, feelings of insecurity, irresponsibility due to lack of training in life skills etc. may lead to such dependent behaviors.

Beller (1959) stressed the role of anxiety in strengthening dependency. He suggested that parent’s attention and presence gives relief from the feelings of threat of losing the attention. Overly anxious or insecure parents are also often the cause of a child's inability to individuate from them.

Research suggests that there is a slightly increased risk for this disorder to be “passed down” to their children.

To overcome you over dependency; “At the bottom of every person's dependency, there is always pain; discovering the pain and healing it is an essential step in ending dependency.” - Chris Prentiss

  • First you have to identify, what aspects and thoughts are there behind your dependency on your mother (inferiority, need of approval etc.). Find out what truly lies on the other side of the fear or insecurity that was causing the dependence.
  • When you identify the reasons and scope, then develop new behavioral strategies to use that encourage independent thinking, emotions and actions between you and your mother.
  • Expand your social network, and be active and involved in the group to develop your self-worth.
  • Don’t be fearful of your incompetence. Start taking small responsibilities and doing it independently. Don’t feel low if you fail. Try to understand where it went wrong and do it again. Experiences make us mature and skilled.
  • Find out who really you are. Develop a sense of self. Start loving your-self. This awakening simply liberates you to keep free of all the dependency and so it helps to enjoy life freely. When you get a taste of how your true self really experiences life, you will surprised that it’s completely different from the way your “me” perceives life.
  • Do some meditation to make your -self calm and relaxed.
  • If all fails, don’t hesitate to take professional help and consult a qualified and trained psychologist who can help you ease or keep the situation under control. Counselling often helps to control or curb any personality disorder.

How Is DPD Treated

Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) is the main method of treatment for DPD. The goal of therapy is to help the person with DPD become more active and independent, and to learn to form healthy relationships.

How to prevent DPD

The development of personality structure is a complex process that begins from an early age. Psychotherapy aimed at modifying personality may be more successful, when begun early, when the patient is highly motivated for change, and when there is a strong working relationship between the therapist and patient.

By:N Radhika Acharya

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