Dependent Personality Disorder and Caring for an Addicted Loved One

Dependent Personality Disorder and Caring for an Addicted Loved One

Dependent personality disorder is a condition where an individual feels the need to be taken care of and has serious fear of abandonment

Family and friends often play the most foundational roles in an individual’s therapy and in many cases are also the caregivers or even guardians of their addicted loved ones. As an individual starts to heal and gets healthy again, the recovery process can also help strengthen relationships. But what if the addicted individual or the friend or family member has a dependent personality disorder?

Dependent personality disorder is a very real condition that the US Library of Mental Health says affects approximately six percent of the world’s population. Individuals with this condition feel the need to be taken care of and are afraid of being abandoned or disconnected from important relationships in their life.

Whether it is the caregiver or the addicted individual, the symptoms are the same. The following is a summary from Psychcentral of the common signs of dependent personality disorder:

  • Normal decisions are very hard to make. A lot of advice and reassurance from others is needed before a decision is made. Even something as simple as deciding what to eat for dinner can cause extreme insecurity.
  • You need others to help you with the responsibilities of life. For example, you cannot pay your bills on your own—you need financial or emotional support from others to help you with this area.
  • It is difficult for you to express when you disagree with someone else. You fear they will no longer have a relationship with you if you are not in agreement with them.
  • You find it very hard to start a project. You fear making the wrong decisions and offending others or destroying relationships.
  • You are afraid or very nervous when you are alone. You experience an extreme fear of being alone and do not think you can take care of yourself.

As you can see, dependent personality disorder greatly effects how an individual views and acts in relationships. When looking at recovery and treatment for individuals with this disorder, consider the following.

Be Firm and Consistent

This means not wavering or changing the rules, setting clear boundaries and following through with consequences if your expectations are not met. For example, if you are a parent with an addicted child who has a dependent personality disorder and you ask him to help out around the house, but do not follow through with consequences when he doesn’t, he will likely recognize this and rely on you to do his chores for him. Consistency builds credibility through your actions as well as your words. As you remain consistent in your message, there will be less likelihood of misunderstanding. As a parent you would also reassure the son or daughter that you will continue to love them regardless—but there are consequences to any actions.

Be Loving

Addiction is a lifelong disease that requires lifelong treatment. Addicts who commit themselves to longer, more intensive treatment programs have the best outcomes. It is recommended that addicts who have not succeeded at short term or outpatient treatment make a commitment to inpatient treatment.

Maintain Open Communication

Whether you are the addicted individual or the caregiver, it is essential to express how you feel. If you are not able to clearly do this directly in the established relationship at this time, talk to a therapist or counselor. It is a very good idea for both parties to exercise regularly as it will help both physically and mentally.

Find Support from Others

One of the best steps you can take as a caregiver or family member is to go to a support group like Al-Anon. Knowing you are not alone is very powerful as it can give you hope. Whether your loved one is an alcoholic or not, a support group like this will be very helpful as all addictive behavior often has the same symptoms and consequences. If you are an addicted individual with a dependent personality disorder, you need to be in a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Addiction is a lifelong disease, so therapy is often very helpful and can give you valuable perspective toward both the short-term and long-term goals of recovery. Addicted individuals face ups and downs in regards to their sobriety. There may be relapses as well. Open, honest communication and continued treatment are often the best ways to improve quality of life.

If you are facing a challenging time as a caregiver or struggling with addiction, do not hesitate to call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day for support. When you talk through your problems you will find in many cases you feel much better and have peace of mind that will help you move forward.