How Residential Treatment for Dependent Personality Disorder Helped My Son Develop Independent Living Skills

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is a mental illness characterized by neediness, fear of abandonment, and a lack of confidence that makes it impossible to make decisions or even to live independently. DPD is a tough condition to live with and to treat. But with hard work and effective, professional treatment in rehab, it is possible to build confidence, to practice important skills, and to set and meet goals for changing problematic behaviors. With the right treatment, it is possible to live independently with this personality disorder.

I have always worried about my son because of his low self-esteem and lack of confidence. When he was a child, I hoped he would grow more confident as he got older. He has always been smart and capable. But, as a young man, I finally realized there was something deeper going on and that my son needed treatment. After a diagnosis of dependent personality disorder, his hard work in rehab finally led to the confidence he needed to make his own decisions and to leave the nest and live on his own.

When my son received the diagnosis of DPD, I was blown away. I had never even heard of it and needed quite an education. Now I know that there are several personality disorders. These are serious mental illnesses related to how the personality develops. They cause abnormal and distorted patterns of thinking about oneself and the world, and this triggers a lot of unhealthy behaviors.

What makes a personality disorder so challenging is that the person who has it cannot usually comprehend that there is anything unusual about how they think and see the world. To them, all the bad things they feel or that happen to them are caused by other people.

My son has dependent personality disorder. Several things his psychiatrist used to diagnose him with DPD were issues our family had struggled with for years:

  • He has always had a hard time making decisions without reassurance. We thought he would grow out of this as he grew older, but his confidence never seemed to develop.
  • He often avoided responsibilities and couldn’t seem to get by doing things on his own.
  • Throughout high school, he tended to always have a girlfriend but drove them away by being too clingy and needy.
  • He has always avoided conflict whenever possible, now we know because he feared disapproval.
  • He is extremely sensitive to even the most constructive criticism.

There are other signs of DPD and characteristics common with the disorder, but for my son these were the issues that caused him the most problems.

The Difficulty of Independence With DPD

It took a while to get that diagnosis of DPD for my son, because no one who cared about him had any idea it was a possibility. We knew he lacked the confidence to make decisions, that he was needy, and that being independent was a big challenge for him. I always assumed, though, that he would grow out of this.

What changed, and finally led to his diagnosis, was when my son tried to go to college. He didn’t actually want to go. He didn’t want to leave home. His father and I pushed him away from the idea of staying at home and going to community college, which was his preference. We felt that if we could push him into the deep end, he would swim rather than sink.

It breaks my heart now to realize that we did that to him. He didn’t swim, and going to college two hours away, living in a dorm, and being away from his family caused my son to sink. He couldn’t handle living independently and came back home within two months after experiencing a couple of panic attacks that finally sent him to the hospital for an overnight stay.

Diagnosis of DBD and Anxiety Disorder

At this point, I knew there was more than just a lack of self-confidence in my son. I had him evaluated by a psychiatrist. He received a diagnosis of DPD as well as anxiety disorder, a common co-occurrence we learned. This combination and pushing him out of the house triggered his panic attacks. Now that I knew there was a deeper reason for all my son’s problematic behaviors, I was determined to get him help and to ensure he could live a normal, independent life one day.

Treatment in Rehab

Because of the seriousness of his diagnosis, I encouraged my son to go into residential rehab. Of course, this was a big challenge, but we started first with some outpatient therapy. Once he trusted the therapist at rehab, he agreed to stay for at least a week. Thankfully, that first week went well and he was prepared to stay longer for more intensive treatment.

Therapy was a big part of his treatment and made such a difference. He benefited from behavioral therapies. His therapists worked with him to finally recognize that some of the ways he thought about himself, like his belief that he couldn’t make decisions without my input, were not normal.

Once he was able to see some of the flaws in his own thinking, they worked on active steps to change those thoughts. And eventually he worked on changing his behaviors by setting small goals and achieving them one by one.

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Rehab Taught My Son Independence and Self-Confidence

Something that really impressed me about the way my son was treated at rehab was that the staff did such a thorough evaluation at admission time. They then used this information, not just for his diagnosis but also to understand him as an individual, and created a treatment plan that made sense for him. They talked to him about what he wanted to achieve and together they set goals.

The two main goals of his treatment in rehab were to improve his confidence in his own skills, ability to make decisions, and ability to really change and to develop and practice skills to become more independent. In addition to these main goals, we also included some family therapy so we could learn more about his condition and how best to support and help him.

Six Months Later, My Son Lives Independently

The hard work he put into his own treatment really paid off and helped my son meet his goals. I truly believe that the way they encouraged him to build and rely on confidence in his choices and actions helped him achieve this.

My son now lives just a few miles from home, but this is a big step. In rehab, he practiced setting and achieving small goals to become more independent and confident. Now he sets bigger goals and works toward them, if not with perfect confidence at least with much more than he used to have.

He still comes home sometimes for help and guidance, but most of the time he lives on his own, goes to work at his part-time job, and takes classes at the community college. We are hopeful that in the next year or two, he will be able to transfer to and live at a university so he can earn a four-year degree.

I credit my son’s hard work for where he stands today, but he never would have gotten there without the positive experience he had in rehab. I encourage all parents to be open to the possibility that their children’s behaviors and moods could be caused by a mental illness. I have taught my son that there is no shame in his diagnosis; I’m only happy that we got it and then the treatment he needed.

If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with complex mental health illnesses and co-occurring disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.