Teen Dependent Personality Disorder Treatment

Teen Dependent Personality Disorder is a chronic mental health condition that causes teens to feel helpless, incapable, or unable to be self-sufficient. Teens who suffer from this disorder are often so attached and reliant on others, they lack the ability to make decisions and form opinions for themselves.

Although some level of attachment to parents and loved ones is healthy, especially in the teen years, the level of attachment witnessed in Dependent Personality Disorder is extreme. Teens may attach to and stay with an abusive partner, or completely refuse to make decisions, learn, and grow without input from the person they are dependent on.

What Does Teen Dependent Personality Disorder Look Like?

  • Teens who have Dependent Personality Disorder are extremely needy, possessive, and often experience intense separation anxiety when away from friends and family. Instead of seeking out and engaging in healthy relationships, they become dependent on others simply because they lack the ability to function independently.
  • Dependent Personality Disorder also causes teens to struggle significantly with self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence. Part of the reason they are so intensely dependent is that they believe themselves unable to make decisions for themselves, even if the decision is mundane. These feelings can be disabling and unbearable.
  • Teens who suffer from this disorder often actively avoid responsibility, chores, and other self-directed activities that require independence. They may display “learned helplessness” or act out, seeing pessimistic and defiant, stressing that they lack the skills or abilities to be responsible.

Signs of Teen Dependent Personality Disorder

Sensitivity to criticism

Sensitivity to criticism

Can’t tolerate being single

Can’t tolerate being single

Displays subservience

Displays subservience

Hates and fears being alone

Hates and fears being alone

Refusal to make decisions

Refusal to make decisions

Suicidal ideation and suicidal thoughts

Suicidal ideation and suicidal thoughts

Substance use and abuse or disorders

Substance use and abuse or disorders

Different Types of Teen Dependent Personality Disorder

Accommodating Dependent - Teens who have the Accommodating form of Dependent Personality Disorder often lose themselves or sacrifice themselves to others, frequently to the detriment of their own well-being. This is most common within romantic relationships, where the teen may adopt of the beliefs of their partner in order to please them or avoid conflict.

Immature Dependent – Teens who suffer from the Immature form of Dependent Personality Disorder seem to lack life skills and knowledge needed to be independent. They often appear emotionally immature and may seem gullible and easily swayed.

Ineffectual Dependent - Teens with Ineffectual Dependent Personality Disorder display dependency and schizoid-like symptoms. They may feign helplessness, appearing apathetic, lazy, or irresponsible. They are often secretive, paranoid, and self-isolating.

Selfless Dependent - Teens with Selfless Dependent Personality Disorder are obsessed with the need to please others, including both romantic partners, friends, and family members. They are frequently self-destructive, willingly giving up their identity and engaging in risky or self-injurious behaviors just to please the people they care about.

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Teen Dependent Personality Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

What Are The Causes Of Teen Dependent Personality Disorder?

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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How Can I Help My Teen with Dependent Personality Disorder?

Encourage Individuality – Teens who have Dependent Personality Disorder struggle immensely with activities that require them to be independent. Seeking help from therapists and medical providers is the single-most helpful action you can take, but there’s a lot you can do to help at home, too.

First, recognize that their inability to be independent is a product of their disorder; don’t enable them by doing everything for them, but don’t shame them for how they feel or how they struggle, either. Encourage them to make their own decisions and take responsibility in small ways, even if it’s just deciding what to wear or what to do that day. If they resist, don’t push; seek guidance from a therapist to create a structured plan.

Help Without Enabling – Even though you shouldn’t simply take over responsibilities for your teen, you can and should give them a hand now and again. Help them feel accomplished and capable by assigning small chores and activities; don’t take over, but do provide guidance and show them how to successfully reach their goals where necessary. By keeping goals small, you increase the chance for successful completion. With every little victory, teens feel a little bit more confident and self-assured, which can help them regain control over their obsessive need to depend on others.

You should also encourage them to engage in self-care and find hobbies or enjoyable activities that they love doing – regardless of whether a friend, partner, or family member enjoys those activities, too.

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.

What Types of Teen Dependent Personality Disorder Treatment Are Available?

Teen Dependent Personality Disorder treatment is different for every patient because every patient is unique. Factors like mental health history, emotional maturity, physical health, and behavior must be considered before identifying the right path forward.

By far, the most common and evidence-based treatment with the highest rate of success is psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy.” Therapy addresses the needs of the whole patient – emotional, physical, behavioral, and mental – to identify issues and help teens work through them so that they can become self-confident and independent.

Talk Therapy

Teens who have Dependent Personality Disorder often fear being alone; therapy is uniquely helpful in this area because it ensures teens don’t have to face their problems alone. In fact, teens often become dependent on and develop an attachment to their therapist during the natural progression of therapy. This is actually beneficial because a skilled therapist can help them work through their transference and dependency as part of the therapeutic process.

Therapists also help teens feel acknowledged, respected, and understood. This approach creates a “safe space” within sessions where teens feel comfortable enough to share their own opinions and beliefs, letting their individuality shine. The therapist works with the teen to help them recognize negative self-talk and self-depreciation, showing them how to change that inner voice to a more positive narrative. This is often the first step in personal growth; as teens become more comfortable with being themselves, they slowly begin to become more individual within their daily lives, too.

Lastly, therapy also helps Dependent teens to identify, address, and change self-effacing and unassuming personality traits. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), they learn how to be assertive, how to stand up for themselves, and how to identify what they excel at, further boosting self-esteem, confidence, and self-image.


Doctors rarely prescribe medication for Dependent Personality Disorder. Unfortunately, there is no pill or drug that can completely or instantly cure the disorder. However, antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, or mood stabilizers may help to temporarily reduce intense symptoms.

Assertiveness Training

Teens who have Dependent Personality Disorder often struggle with assertiveness and may be completely unable to stand up for themselves or share how they feel with others. In assertiveness training, teens learn new skills to help them not only identify how they feel or what they believe, but also how to effectively communicate that information without giving up their identity and slipping into older self-depreciating behaviors.

Even though assertiveness training is often thought of and utilized in the professional or corporate world, it can also help dependent teens better express themselves. This is especially true if training takes place within the confines of group therapy or residential treatment, where teens have the unique opportunity to role-play and practice their new skills. Over time, and with patience, they slowly learn to feel more confident in their voice and grow to truly enjoy who they are, instead of who they believe they are supposed to be.

Teen Dependent Personality Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Treating Dependent Personality Disorder often requires breaking the dependency teens have to specific people or persons. At Paradigm San Francisco, we provide a safe space for teens to detach with constant, round-the-clock support from talented professionals.

Guided Treatment

Paradigm’s many programs and short-term residential treatment provide a guided treatment path with an eye on future wellness. Teens start with treatment at Paradigm for a predetermined number of sessions. Self-paced progression allows teens to advance as slowly or as rapidly as is needed, while therapists help parents come up with a plan to support teens once they graduate out of the program.

At Paradigm, treatment is always holistic. Our programs address the needs of not only the whole person, but also the entire family. From interpersonal and communication training to assertiveness training and cognitive-behavioral therapy, we have many tools available to help everyone involved grow, evolve, and move on from maladaptive behaviors.

A Chance for Interaction

Dependent Personality Disorder significantly impacts social skills and the ability to interact with peers. That’s why group therapy and opportunities for socialization are so critical in treatment. At Paradigm San Francisco, teens experience both structured and unstructured social time with peers. During downtime, they are free to interact with each other, developing newer and healthier social skills. During sessions, they learn how to be assertive and counter passive-dependent behavior while maintaining empathy and compassion for others and themselves.

“ I had been stumbling through life for many years, some good weeks, but mostly bad ones. I blamed everything negative in my life to bad luck or other people being jerks. It took a real bad event in my life to begin looking inward and to come to terms that i was the sole reason for all things bad in my life and I had no idea how to change or fix the problems. You've changed my life and I have the deepest gratitude to the entire staff for helping me to the depths you have. I will stay in touch throughout my life, as I feel like you really care how I am doing, and am going to do. “

– Robert L.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Dependent Personality Disorder

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.

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