A Psychological Aspect of Susan Smith: Dependent Personality Disorder On October 25, 1994, Susan Smith drowned her two sons, Michael and Alex, in the John D. Long Lake in Union County, South Carolina. For nine days she lied about knowing where the boys were. On November 3, she confessed to the killings and would soon go to trial.
Susan's defense team hired a psychiatrist to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of her. She was diagnosed as having dependent personality disorder. He described her as a person who "feels she can't do anything on her own". "She constantly needs affection and becomes terrified that she'll be left alone" She was only depressed when she was alone. The psychiatrist studied her family history and concluded that based
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The person may be convinced that he/she is incapable of functioning on his/her own. A dependent person seeks direction from others, even on insignificant issues. The relationships of individuals with dependent disorder are usually unbalanced. They tend to seek all-powerful helpers, or people they believe can protect them from feelings of loneliness. They may jump from relationship to relationship to avoid being alone. People with this disorder do not trust their own ability to make decisions, and feel that others have better ideas. They may be devastated by separation and loss, and they may go to great lengths, even suffering abuse, to stay in a relationship (Gillihan). An individual may be diagnosed with dependent personality disorder if they meet five or more of the following criteria established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (DSM-IV):
1) Difficulty in making everyday decisions without excessive advice and reassurance 2) Needs others to assume responsibility for major areas of his/her life 3) Difficulty expressing disagreement with others and unrealistically fears loss of support or approval if he disagrees 4) Difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his/her own, due to lack of confidence in judgment or abilities 5) Goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support, to the point of volunteering