Teen dependent personality disorder is a condition where teens are consumed with a dependence upon other people, to the extreme degree where they’re unable to make decisions or form opinions for themselves. Such reliance on others often results in problems, including remaining in abusive relationships, inability to make decisions for oneself, and a reluctance to grow or make positive steps in life.
Accommodating Dependent - Characterized by an incessant need to be in a romantic relationship, resulting in teens abandoning all personal opinions and beliefs in order to keep their partner pleased, in order to avoid conflict.
Immature Dependent - Characterized by teens being almost childlike in their lack of knowledge and necessary life skills, preventing them from functioning as individuals.
Ineffectual Dependent - Characterized by overall apathy toward life, causing teens to avoid normal life circumstances that require responsibilities of them, and often leading to a secret, isolated lifestyle.
Selfless Dependent - Characterized by an almost obsessive-like desire to please others, putting the needs of caretakers over their own, and incessantly seeking approval as a measure of self-worth.
Traits and genes – teens with dependent personality disorder more often than not have a family history of the same or similar personality disorders, as well as anxiety disorders, and familial traits of submissiveness and insecurity.
Early trauma – very negative early childhood experiences, including physical or emotional trauma, can lead to a teen developing an extremely low sense of self-esteem, to the point that they feel incapable of making any decisions without prior consent or consultation.
Cultural belief – teens who grow up in incredibly oppressive households may be taught and made to conform to orders and opinions and may be harshly reprimanded for any form of independence. In these cases, a personality disorder may develop due to a specific kind of treatment early on in life.
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Encourage individual behavior – the hardest thing for a teen with dependent personality disorder is to be independent. Getting your teen the help they need is a big step in the right direction, but they’ll need your support after they get back home from therapy. Encourage them to make their own choices by asking them the right questions, from what they want to do, to what they’re planning to wear, and how they might spend their day. Know where their boundaries lie and be careful not to push too much. It can help to talk to their therapist to better know how much responsibility your teen might be able to handle after treatment, and how to progress.
Help them take care of their responsibilities – giving your teen chores and encouraging them to take on courses or classes that might give them a sense of accomplishment and purpose can help them build up the self-esteem they will need to function in life. Remind them of their responsibilities and help them organize themselves in a way that allows them to get everything done in a week and still have time to themselves. Encourage them to try taking some more me-time, away from friends, to explore what they might like and what they might want to do.
Keep them in touch with treatment resources – be sure to help your teen regularly attend group sessions, go to their scheduled therapist meetings, and work through the resources they’re given to deal with their condition. A treatment program at Paradigm Malibu can be a leap of progress for a teen, but they have to continue to make progress afterward too.
Depending on the nature of the disorder and the individual circumstances, teen dependent personality disorder treatment will address mental, emotional, physical, and behavioral aspects. Treatment can be extremely helpful and successful in helping teens escape these patterns of dependency and self-doubt, as the very nature of therapy means they don’t have to face themselves, or their problems, alone. Along these lines, therapists help teens to recognize the relationships they depend upon and perhaps hide inside of, the doubts they have about themselves, and the fears they have of failing.
With the support and understanding of a therapist, teens can feel acknowledged, making it safe for them to share opinions and beliefs, and begin making decisions for their own lives, in a safe environment. This forms the beginning of a behavioral change. Through specific types of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, a professional can help a teen identify and target thoughts that are especially self-deprecating in nature and avoid them.
Teens with dependent personality disorder are prone to self-effacing and being unassuming, so many therapy approaches involve helping a teen exert assertiveness and embrace a form of self-confidence. Therapists will also propose that teens engage in activities that they may excel at, in order to further boost their self-esteem and help them create and refine a more successful and confident image.
Occasionally, medication will also be used during teen dependent personality disorder treatment to help treat co-existing symptoms such as depression or anxiety. In these cases, the disorders will be treated cooperatively, and usually medication will only be prescribed for a short time. Some medication can potentially be risky, especially when prescribed in the long-term, which is why therapists and doctors only prescribe meds when truly necessary.
One specific form of therapy that may help teens with DPD develop the self-esteem and confidence to break away from their old habits is assertiveness training. While some might argue that assertiveness is a personality trait that cannot be trained, assertiveness training has been shown to be particularly effective in social skills training. Most assertiveness training programs are found in the context of corporate team building activities and such, but assertiveness training can be a form of therapy by helping a teen identify what thought patterns and behavior is keeping them back from truly expressing themselves and finding an inner voice that is not reliant on others. Roleplaying in general may be a useful tool in therapy, including group therapy, where teens could be taught how to assert themselves and interact with others appropriately.
Treating a dependent personality disorder can be difficult, especially because of the nature of the disorder wherein a teen can latch onto others as a way of depending on them.
Programs and short-term treatment can help mitigate this issue, allowing for a pre-determined set of sessions to help a teen with their condition, before taking a break and providing parents with the resources to help their teens further the progress they’ve made in therapy. Interpersonal therapy, assertiveness training and cognitive-behavioral therapy are just a few tools used by therapists at Paradigm Malibu in helping teens with dependent personality disorder.
A Chance for Interaction
Group therapy is crucial for dependent personality disorder, as it helps teens develop healthier interactive behavior by countering their passive-dependent behavior, and practicing assertiveness in a healthy way. It takes a guided approach to help a teen develop the necessary skills to start making decisions and statements.
Paradigm Malibu saved our daughter's life. The loving and caring staff was always there for us. Can't say enough about how grateful we are for every single individual team member. We love you.
– Alberto R.
Can I just separate myself from the person, rather than getting teen dependent personality disorder treatment?
More often than not, people with dependent personality disorder cannot separate themselves from others, and often wouldn’t want to in the first place. Those that do quickly begin feeling extremely lonely and isolated, incapable of spending time alone. If you want to end an abusive relationship while having been diagnosed with dependent personality disorder, consider getting emotional support or professional help, so you can turn to someone for help after the separation.
The reason the dependency is problematic is because it’s so severe. Loneliness becomes terrifying and emotionally excruciating, so getting help before you end a relationship can keep you safe.
How is dependent personality disorder diagnosed?
It can be difficult to diagnose someone with teen dependent personality disorder because there are different types of personality disorders and there can be significant overlap in terms of symptoms and potential causes.
Typically, a diagnosis is made through a professional examination of a teen’s symptoms and behavior. A differential diagnosis is important – for example, someone with dependent personality disorder would more easily agree to testing than someone with a borderline personality disorder, who may at times react in rage.
Someone with an avoidant personality disorder is typically also unwilling to undergo treatment, and it can take longer for them to warm up to the idea of therapy. While a teen may exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression coupled with low self-esteem, the step to a dependent personality disorder is much more severe. Differentiating one disorder from another may take some time, but getting a proper diagnosis is crucial in order to figure out how to help your teen live a healthier, independent, and happier life.