Dependent Personality Disorder

Sean Mactire’s book  Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think offers three factors in creating a great antagonist: the Four Basics (irresponsibility, self-indulgence, interpersonal intrusiveness, and social rule-breaking), a mental illness, and one or more characteristics from the list I posted on June 22, 2012. So far, I’ve covered seven of the thirteen mental illnesses Mactire covers. Today is the Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD).

Mactire says, “These people are naive and docile and need to cling to stronger personalities who will make the decisions for them. At least five of the following factors must be evident:”

  • Unable to make everyday decisions alone
  • Allows others to make decisions
  • Is overly agreeable
  • Lacks initiative
  • Volunteers in order to gain acceptance or approval
  • Feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone
  • Easily upset or panics over minor losses
  • Is preoccupied with concerns about being abandoned
  • Easily hurt by criticism.

I find myself feeling really sorry for this person–this guy would make a handy victim in any story, real or fictional. But I’m trying to use these personalities as antagonists, so I’ll do my best to make this guy a criminal. I’ll plug him into a personality type and run with it. Today I’ll choose INFP, “The Healer,” since that personality type is opposite of this disorder and yet fits so neatly.

INFP’s are curious, helpful, and values-oriented. They strive to mend divisions, restore lost unity, and establish integrity. On the outside, they’re easy-going and serene. On the inside, they’re going nuts trying to help everybody achieve world peace and wholeness. They see the world as an ethical, honorable place, and strive to make all that idealism come true. More often than not, they are let down and take it badly. They love fantasy, and love to please everyone at all times.

Now let’s throw in a big dose of DPD. Now this healer sees that changes need to take place to improve lives, but is unable to come to any conclusions on how to make those changes a reality. If he does offer a suggestion, and it’s met with indifference, or worse, criticism, he’ll be crushed. How can he restore unity and establish integrity if the hurting person won’t listen to him? Or worse, what if he has no advise to offer? That poor, miserable soul will remain in a state of disunity, disorder, and misery. Maybe it’d be best if he could ease their pain by removing them from their misery permanently. It’s for their best. My DPD antagonist is now on a mission to “save” all of mankind and bring peace and wholeness by killing them all. He’s going to be fighting against himself, too. He hates being alone, but if he kills off everyone around him, he’ll definitely be alone. Also, he may waver in his decision to “help” people – he may begin a killing spree, change his mind and stop, then start up again at some later point when his inability to “help” drives him back to his original “helpful” plan. 

Can you think of other ways this personality disorder could apply to antagonists? Please share in the comments section.

-Sonja
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One thought on “Dependent Personality Disorder

  1. Excellent scenario! Thanks for bringing that up – I haven’t thought of partners at all when writing these posts. I’ll keep that in mind.

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