Codependent vs. Dependent Personality Disorder: What’s the Difference?
Last Updated: November 6, 2023
Codependent behavior and Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) both create dependency issues within relationships. Dependency may cause someone to feel like they can’t take care of their own needs because their partner is needy or that they need someone else so much they cannot function without that person.
Codependency is a behavior, while Dependent Personality Disorder is a clinical mental health diagnosis. Both will have specific impacts on relationships, mental health and personal life.
Codependency and Dependent Personality Disorder
Codependency and Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) may sound like the same thing but they are two separate experiences. They both manifest differently in someone’s life, and knowing the difference between the two can help you identify if you are experiencing one or the other.
Codependency occurs when two people in a relationship can’t function without each other. People in a codependent relationship tend to feel like the other person needs them at all times and that they are responsible for their partner. Codependency goes beyond the healthy give and take of a normally functioning relationship.
Dependent Personality Disorder is a psychological disorder where someone is dependent on other people to fulfill all of their needs. Someone who is diagnosed with DPD may stay in bad relationships so they are not alone or rely on their partner or loved one to make all their decisions for them.
Codependency Definition and Characteristics
Codependent relationships may start normally and have an equal give and take between two people, but eventually, they change and form unhealthy boundaries. Someone may be experiencing codependency if they notice the following in their relationship:
- The constant need for approval from their partner
- Changing their habits to make their partner happy
- Feel as if there is nothing outside of the relationship
- Sacrificing mental, physical and emotional needs for their partner
- Fear of being alone
- Stay in the relationship even if it is harmful
- The need to always rescue the people in your life
- Have trouble with intimacy
Dependent Personality Disorder Symptoms
Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) may be complex to identify in yourself unless you know the symptoms to look for. Someone who has DPD may feel like they cannot trust themselves to make decisions, so they look to others to make decisions for them. They become over-reliant on others and form unhealthy attachments and boundaries with people. Some symptoms of DPD can include:
- Difficulty making small and large life decisions
- Fear of being alone
- Submissive behavior
- Lack of personal accountability
- Taking criticism very harshly
- Fear of disagreements or confrontation
- Low self-confidence
Similarities in Dependency Issues
Codependency and Dependent Personality Disorder have overlapping behaviors that you will see if both instances. Codependent and Dependent people will both have a high level of dependency on other people in their lives that has negative repercussions. There is a need to be with or rely on another person, with an extreme fear of being alone or without someone to care for.
Codependent people and people with DPD both experience a lot of anxiety and fear surrounding relationships. There can be a consistent worry about a relationship ending or not being enough for others. Healthy relationships thrive when they are two-sided, while both dependent and codependent relationships end up one-sided.
Differences Between Codependent and Dependent Individuals
There is a difference between being codependent in a relationship and being dependent on someone in a relationship. Healthy relationships experience dependency, but there are boundaries and a balanced give-and-take between people. Dependent behavior can look like:
- Equal priority of the relationship
- Interests outside of the relationship
- Mutual value in the relationship
- Ability to express concerns to the other person
- Self-worth lies outside of the relationship
Someone who is codependent in their relationship will not have healthy boundaries, and it negatively impacts both people. Codependent behavior may include:
- One-sided focus in the relationship
- Happiness is dependent on taking care of someone else
- Limited interest or focus outside of the relationship
- Sacrificing one’s mental or physical health for another person
- Inability to express one’s concerns or fears to the other person
Treatment Options for DPD or Codependent Behaviors
If you or someone you know may suffer from DPD or codependent behaviors, The Recovery Village Kansas City now offers counseling services for those with or without addiction. The Recovery Village Kansas City has treatment options for people with either DPD or codependent behaviors. Reach out to the admissions team at The Recovery Village Kansas City to learn more about treatment options.
Mount Sinai. “Dependent Personality Disorder.” 2023. Accessed October 30, 2023.
James Madison University. “Counseling Center: Codependency.” 2023. Accessed October 30, 2023.
Booth, Jessica. “What Is Dependent Personality Disorder?” Forbes.com, May 5, 2023. Accessed October 30, 2023.
Berry, Jennifer. “What’s to know about codependent relationships?” Medical News Today, October 5, 2023. Accessed October 30, 2023.