woman leaning on manDependency is a need for others to meet one’s psychological, social, physical, or financial needs.

What Is Dependency?

Any reliance on others can be characterized as a form of dependency, and all people are dependent on others to some extent. Humans are social animals, and without any interactions with others may experience serious psychological consequences. Dependency can be used to characterize an assortment of needs that must be met by others, including:

  • Developmental dependency: The need of children for parents or other caregivers to provide care.
  • Financial dependency: The dependence on another person or entity for financial support.
  • Social or psychological dependency: The reliance on others to meet social or psychological needs.

Dependency in Psychology

Some level of dependency is widely considered normal in human development, however, severe dependency can cause psychological problems. Dependency is sometimes characterized as a personality trait. Some people are more dependent on external forces to meet internal needs than others. Examples of unhealthy degrees of dependency include:

  • Codependence: Commonly used in addiction literature, this term most often refers to the mutual dependence between people with addiction, their loved ones, and people who enable them. Codependence can also be used to characterize an excessively dependent romantic or other interpersonal relationship.
  • Dependent personality: A personality diagnosis that interferes with a person’s ability to be self-sufficient and results in a long-term pattern of dependence on others as well as a chronic fear of being abandoned.

Dependence and Culture

Different cultures have different standards for what constitutes unhealthy dependence. The United States generally encourages independence and self-reliance and adult who lived with his parents might be viewed as abnormal. In some more communal cultures, however, this behavior would be viewed as normal and healthy, and excessive independence might be viewed as unhealthy.


  1. A.D.A.M. Editor Board. (2010, November 18). Dependent personality disorder. PubMed Health. Retrieved from
  2. Dependency. (n.d.). The Internet Encyclopedia of Personal Construct Psychology. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

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  • Nicolle

    March 29th, 2022 at 9:58 PM

    My mother in-law has always been disrespectful towards me to my face but mainly through her 25 texts a day she sends my husband. She is always trying to convince him to leave me, lie to me or cheat on me. I know he should tell her to stop but she is his only family and she doesn’t listen anyway. She also lies all the time telling us how badly other people are treating her only to find out she’s telling them the same lies about us. I know she’s doing this to manipulate everyone. I also know her jealousy of me and how she over confides in my husband about things you don’t talk to your children about like your sex life etc. is not healthy but my husband still doesn’t see what she is doing. He thinks she has just got depression and feels sorry for her but I believe she knows exactly what she is doing and only plays the victim to get out of being accountable for the horrible things she says. Anyway this went on for 21 years until 4 years ago I decided I couldn’t deal with it anymore and told her if she couldn’t show me and my marriage respect she was no longer welcome in my home and was not seeing our children. Well she chose to stay away and continue trying to destroy my marriage from a distance but I don’t care anymore because our lives couldn’t be better since I cut her out. I wish I did it years ago. The only issue I have is she has gotten worse with her texts to my husband over the years. She calls him every name under the sun for not allowing her to see the kids, has threatened to commit suicide multiple times, threatening to take us to court to get access to the kids, cuts him out of her will every other week. I could go on for hours listing the horrible, abusive but clearly manipulative things she says. But still after 25yrs my husband can’t see her for what she really is. Is there anyway I can get him to see what she really is without me trying to tell him cause every time I do this I sound like I’m badmouthing her because I don’t like her so I can tell he doesn’t truly believe me? Please help me I would love to fix this one issue in my life.

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