Psychological medicine

Dealing with the dependent patient

Jeffrey Streimer



Doctors need to assess and reassure dependent patients about their symptoms while treating only the observed signs.

Article Extract

  • Dependent people have low self-esteem, making them submissive, clinging, indecisive and very trying.
  • Doctors may be idealised by their dependent patients and invited to ‘rescue’ them by providing all the answers. Dependent patients can make you feel very important.
  • Setting and stating realistic limits for the doctor–patient relationship safeguards against the doctor ultimately becoming frustrated or rejecting.
  • Some dependent patients are ‘lifers’. Having continuing problems guards them against treatment termination. Therefore, assess and reassure patients about their symptoms, but treat only actual observed signs.