Illuminating a neglected clinical issue: societal costs of interpersonal dependency and dependent personality disorder

J Clin Psychol. 2012 Jul;68(7):766-81. doi: 10.1002/jclp.21870. Epub 2012 May 23.


Objectives: To determine the degree to which patients with high levels of trait dependency or dependent personality disorder (DPD) engage in behaviors that harm themselves and others (e.g., domestic violence, child abuse).

Method: Six domains of literature were reviewed: (a) dependency as a risk factor for physical illness; (b) health care utilization and expenditures; (c) global and domain-specific functional impairment; (d) violence toward others; (e) victimization by others; and (f) self-harm.

Results: High levels of trait dependency and DPD are associated with elevated risk for physical illness, partner and child abuse, and suicidality, as well as with high levels of functional impairment and increased health care expenditure.

Conclusions: Contrary to clinical lore, trait dependency and DPD are associated with behaviors that lead to myriad negative consequences for the dependent person, those close to them, and society as a whole. These patterns have noteworthy implications for assessment and treatment of dependent patients and suggest that DPD should be included as a diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition.

Keywords: DSM-5; abuse; dependent personality; illness; personality disorder; victimization.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Dependency, Psychological*
  • Dependent Personality Disorder / complications*
  • Dependent Personality Disorder / economics
  • Dependent Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / etiology
  • Violence / psychology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data