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Dependency and Depression

Although laboratory and field studies confirm that there is a positive relationship between level of dependency and level of depression in children, adolescents, and adults, the dependency-depression relationship is more complex than early researchers had thought. On the one hand, exaggerated dependency needs do in fact place an individual at increased risk for the subsequent onset of depression.

However, it is also the case that the onset of depressive symptoms results in increases in dependent thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a vari- ety of subject groups. Presumably, the feelings of help- lessness, hopelessness, anhedonia, and anergia that are frequently associated with depression can manifest themselves in increases in overt dependent behaviors in depressed subjects. The mechanism by which dependent personality traits place an individual at risk for depression is not completely understood, but initial findings suggest that dependency increases risk for depression by causing the dependent person to be particularly upset and threatened by experiences of interpersonal loss.

To be sure, interpersonal stressors affect everyone to some degree. However, the dependent person’s lifelong ten- dency to look to others for nurturance, guidance, and protection may cause him or her to become extremely sensitive to the possibility that a potential caretaker will no longer be available to fulfill their protective and nurturing role. In this respect, dependency represents a vulnerability (or diathesis) that–when combined with interpersonal stressors–places the dependent person at increased risk for depression.

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