Codependency And Dependent Personality Disorder Revisited By Debra Sutton

We are a all Codependent to some extent in our need to feel loved, safe, and secure in life and within the family unit. We all depend on others to a certain extent. This is normal. It is when the need for the approval of others for our own self esteem, self worth, and validation that Codependency becomes unhealthy.

Codependency in relationships is often confused with Dependent Personality Disorder. When I read articles online written about Codependency some do not distinguish the difference between Codependency and Dependent Personality Disorder, creating much confusion for some who are researching Codependency. Codependency and Dependent Personality Disorder may have some common characteristics, however they are not the same thing. DPD is an actual Cluster C disorder while Codependency is a learned dysfunctional behavior pattern. DPD is often hard to diagnose as Dependent Personality Disorder and Borderline Personally Disorder share many common traits. This disorder can only be diagnosed by a professional.

I am revisiting this subject because many of those who have been in relationships with narcissists begin to question themselves, asking themselves am I the narcissist. Usually after reading online about codependents being inverted narcissists or co-narcissists. Many online writers do not take the time to distinguish between Codependency and Dependent Personality Disorder. Narcissist Sam Vaknin author of Malignant Self Love does write about the disorder and explains the difference between Codependency and DPD.

If a person has object constancy and an ability to self reflect they are not a narcissist.




1 excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

Codependency is a controversial and likely pseudoscientific concept for a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Wikipedia

Codependency also known as relationship addiction is a learned behavior passed down from generation to generation. Codependents become addicted to one sided relationships which are often toxic and abusive.

Codependency was a term coined by Alcoholics Anonymous. This is where there is an alcoholic in the family and the wife becomes a codependent enabler as she covers for her husband when he misses work etc. so he doesn’t lose his job. another example would be say a parent has a child who is addicted to drugs and the mother gives the child money to go buy drugs to keep her child off the streets.

Then there are codependent dysfunctional realtionships as narcissists create Codependency in their partners by isolating them, gaslighting them, so the spouse becomes completely dependent on them. The narcissist keeps their partner hooked into the abuse by reward and punishment. This type of Codependency is also known as relationship addiction. It is a learned behavior passed down from generation to generation. Codependents become addicted to one sided relationships which are often toxic and abusive. Codependents in these relationships are the helpers, the fixers, the people pleasers. They are not acting out consciously. They genuinely want to help. They end up helping by sacrificing their own needs. They don’t realize at the time their own need to fix and to please comes from a weak sense of self worth.

Then there is Dependent Personality Disorder. DPD it is a psychiatric disorder those with this disorder. Have no self esteem. Cannot make decisions on their own and are completely dependent on their partner. They usually choose a narcissist as a partner and are completely dependent on the narcissist for their own self worth. According to Sam Vaknin Dependent Personality Disordered are inverted/covert narcissist. They seek relationships with narcissists. Their world feels dark and gray without a narcissist in their life.

To “qualify” as an inverted narcissist, you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists and ONLY with narcissists, no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a Dependent Personality Disorder, can you be safely labelled an ‘inverted narcissist’.”~Sam Vaknin

Dependent Personality Disorder: People with DPD tend to display needy, passive, and clinging behavior, and have a fear of separation. Other common characteristics of this personality disorder include: Inability to make decisions, even everyday decisions like what to wear, without the advice and reassurance of others.

DPD is a cluster C personality disorder.

Diagnostic criteria for 301.6 Dependent Personality Disorder

DSM Criteria

DSM Version


DSM Criteria

A pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

(1) has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others

(2) needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life

(3) has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval.

Note: Do not include realistic fears of retribution.

(4) has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his or her own (because of a lack of self-confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack of motivation or energy)

(5) goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant

(6) feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for himself or herself

(7) urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends

(8) is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of himself or herself


Web MD

Sam Vaknin

Codependence and Dependent Personality Disorder

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