Dependency - An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.

Hooked on need:

Just like some get hooked on drugs and alcohol, some Personality Disordered individuals get hooked on specific people or relationships.

Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is itself a unique personality disorder, defined in the DSM. There are also other types of Personality Disorder where dependency can be a trait, including Borderline Personality Disorder.

The effects of a relationship dependency on family members and partners can be strikingly similar to those of a chemical (drug and alcohol) dependency. In both cases, the person has poor self-control of behaviors which threaten the security, drain the resources and cross the boundaries of those closest to them. For this reason, a number of the coping strategies and techniques developed by organizations like Al-Anon can be helpful for Nons.


  • A woman quits her job immediately after getting into a committed relationship forcing her partner to become the breadwinner.
  • A widowed parent moves in with their child when they could easily take care of themselves.
  • A twenty-something child living with their parents refuses to look for a job.

What it feels like:

When an adult shows symptoms of dependency, you may start to feel trapped. It is different when a sick person, child or elderly person needs care. In this scenario, the need can be seen by all concerned, and the caregiver is able to make decisions for their wellbeing.

When a Personality Disordered individual behaves in a dependent way, they often refuse to allow others to make meaningful decisions on their behalf. This leads to conflicts and, for the ‘caregiver’ (who may not have chosen the role or even see the need for the role) feelings of being stuck, used and taken advantage of.

What Not to Do:

  • Don't accept responsibility without authority.
  • Don't put yourself in the position where your needs are secondary to someone else's.
  • Don't elevate another person's "wants" to the status of "needs".
  • Don't allow yourself to become isolated in a caregiver position. If you're doing it alone, you're probably doing too much.

What To Do:

  • Recognize you will not be able to please a dependent personality all the time - if they have adequate food and water, shelter, clothing and medicine - everything else is a bonus.
  • Accept that the person with a dependency trait does not think the way you do. Their reality is OK to them.
  • Make a list of your own needs and the dependent person's needs and follow the 51% rule – look after your own needs at least 51% of the time.
  • Recruit help so that you can get a break.
  • Keep some of your money, time, energy and other resources private, so you have the means to take care of yourself.