inadequate, then you are more likely to depend on someone or repeat
some activity over and over that you are sure you can do. Feeling so
inadequate that you feel you can't handle your life must be a
Masserman (1943) proposed that psychological problems, e.g.
hypochondria, were a panic reaction to being powerless or feeling
unable to cope. He believed almost any neurotic reaction, such as
anxiety, social withdrawal, depression, etc., no matter how ineffective,
was more comfortable than doing nothing about the real stresses we
face. So, being tense or sad is better than being weak and dependent.
It is interesting to note that feeling helpless or inadequate has been
involved in every emotion we have discussed thus far-stress,
depression, anger, and, now, dependency.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV-R
describes a diagnosable disorder called "dependent personality." The
Passively allows others to assume responsibility for major areas
of life because of fears or inability to function independently
(e.g., lets spouse decide what kind of job he/she should have).
Subordinates his/her own needs to those of persons on whom
he or she depends. This is to avoid conflicts and to avoid having
to rely on self (e.g., a dependent or codependent person might
even tolerate an abusive spouse).
Lacks self-confidence (e.g., sees self as helpless, stupid).
Research spanning 30 years (Greenberg & Bornstein, 1988)
suggests that a dependent personality is at risk of depression,
alcoholism, obesity, tobacco addiction, and a variety of physical and
psychosomatic disorders (note all the "oral" activities). In spite of
having many psychological problems, dependent people show a strong
tendency to believe that their problems are somatic and,
consequently, they seek professional help for physical problems or see
their depression as a "chemical imbalance." When under stress,
dependent people generally seek out others, rather than withdraw. For
unknown reasons, if a girl is dependent as a child, there is a tendency
for her to remain consistently dependent from early childhood
throughout adulthood. On the other hand, passivity and dependency in
boys and men are not nearly so stable or predictable. Possibly, we are
just more accepting of passivity in women and make fewer efforts to
What are the more common dynamics of dependency? You might
see yourself or your friends in some of these speculations:
A person may become almost totally helpless, which, as noted
in chapter 6, is a basis for feeling depressed. Therapists have
observed that a dependent personality often precedes a