Interpersonal Dependency

Interpersonal Dependency

Interpersonal Dependency is Human Nature

Individuals differ in the amount of comfort and support they need from others. Some people will be highly dependent on those around them, while others will have much lower requirements. If an individual is too dependent on other people, then this may be unhealthy. It could mean that they are unable or unwilling to take care of their own needs. There are different disorders that can develop due to pathological dependency. Helping one another is part of being human, but it can also become detrimental in excess.

Interpersonal Dependency Defined

Dependency can refer to a number of different things. It can allude to how people can come to rely on each other. One individual may be dependent on a friend or family member for emotional or protective support. If a person has a problem, there will usually be somebody they can turn to for advice. As well as becoming dependent on other people, it is also possible to develop a dependency on different substances. Alcoholics have become physically dependent on alcohol and will feel that they need it in order to cope with life.

Interpersonal dependency is the amount of comfort and help that one individual will get from another. Some people may have a high amount of interpersonal dependency and this can lead to low self-esteem and social anxiety. Some individuals can develop a pathological dependency where it starts to negatively impact their life. It can lead to a situation where they are totally dependent on others for their sense of self. These people will find it hard to deal with things without the help of others.

Dependent Personality Disorder

Some individuals become so reliant on other people that they are diagnosed as having dependent personality disorder. This is characterized by an inability to make decisions alone and a need for constant reassurance. The individual who is so dependent will want to pass over the responsibly for their life to other people as much as possible. They will also tend to feel helpless if there are not other people around to offer guidance and support. It is believed that dependent personality disorder results from experiences during childhood. If parents are too clingy, then it may mean that the child learns to be overly dependent on them. As they grow into adulthood, this person may continue with the same behavior.

Interpersonal Dependency and Substance Abuse

Those who abuse alcohol or drugs tend to become dependent on other people as well. This occurs because the addiction leads to a situation where the individual is unable to fulfill their expected roles in a family and in society. Other people end up taking up these responsibilities to cover for the addict’s deficiencies. There is no real evidence that individuals with pathological interpersonal dependencies will later move onto chemical addiction. It is more usual that addicts will learn to become highly dependent on other people.


Another example of a pathological dependency is co-dependency. This is where the individual becomes addicted to their relationships. Co-dependency is common within couples where one partner is an addict. Living within such a relationship is traumatic and so co-dependency is a type of maladaptive coping strategy. The individual who isn’t addicted will allow their identity to become wrapped up in taking care of the addict. They will have a high level of interpersonal dependence and so rely on the addict even though they may be treated appallingly. In this type of relationship both people will be said to be dealing with dependency issues; both chemical and interpersonal.

It is suspected that co-dependency is a type of learned behavior. If a child grows up in a family where a parent was co-dependent, they may repeat the behavior in their own relationships. Co-dependency can be as destructive as other addictions because it means the individual fails to take care of their own needs.

Interpersonal Dependency Inventory

Different assessment tools have been developed to assess levels of interpersonal dependency. This type of assessment can be useful to therapists who are trying to decide on the best course of treatment. It can be used for diagnosing conditions such as dependent personality disorder and co-dependency.

Criticisms of Dependency Assessment

There have been criticisms on this type of assessment because it fails to take into account the positive aspects of dependency. The Multidimensional Interpersonal Dependency Inventory includes other elements which are missing from standard interpersonal dependency assessments. Therefore, it may prove to be more reliable in the future.