The Difference Between Codependency and Dependent Personality Disorder

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

man with black and white masks

They both sound similar – codependency and dependent personality disorder (DPD) – but are they the same? What level of dependency constitutes as having a mental disorder versus an unhealthy view of relationships? Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed or are concerned about a loved one, there are some distinct differences between the two. Both can be very distressing and there are ways to treat each – but DPD is classified as a mental disorder whereas codependency is not. The following is a brief breakdown of what each means:


Codependency is classified as a learned behavior that can be passed down between generations within families. As explained by Mental Health America, people with codependency issues (also known as “relationship addiction”) tend to form and maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive or abusive. This way of relating to others often occurs in dysfunctional families, because members are taught to place others’ needs above their own. For example, if a member of the family is sick, other family members will tend to the sick family member constantly, placing their own needs, desires, and sense of self on the backburner. People with codependency issues lack a healthy self-esteem and often find it difficult to “be themselves”.

Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)

One of the most frequently diagnosed personality disorders, DPD is characterized by a person becoming emotionally overdependent on others to please them. Individuals with this disorder tend to be viewed as clingy, passive, and needy. The following are common symptoms of this disorder:

  • Has difficulty making everyday decisions without the help of others
  • Needs others to assume responsibility for most aspects of their life
  • Has difficulty expressing disagreement
  • Has difficulty starting projects on one’s own
  • Goes to great lengths to garner nurture and support from others
  • When a close relationship ends, urgently seeks another to take care of them

Overall DPD tends to involve more of a general dependency on anyone other than oneself to make decisions, feel cared and loved for, and to carry out general tasks. People with codependency find most of their concerns with close relationships, and they tend to relate to others as placing them first and caring for their needs; DPD involves the placement of one’s safety and comfortability as the leading motivation for close relationships.

Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 888-958-7511 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you.


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