Avoidant Personality Disorder

Have you ever felt reluctant to partake in novel activities and meeting strangers?

That you are inadequate and inferior to others?

Or that people are secretly criticising and making fun of you?

If you have answered yes to any of the above, you may have Avoidant Personality Disorder.

 

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Avoidant Personality Disorder is a type of personality disorder. Those with Avoidant Personality Disorder are characterized by feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy, and sensitivity to negative criticism and rejection. Though they would like to interact with others, they tend to avoid social interaction due to the intense fear of being rejected. Avoidant Personality Disorder causes significant problems that affect the ability to interact with others and maintain relationships in day-to-day life.

Avoidant Personality Disorder is often associated with other mental health conditions like Social Anxiety Disorder. However, important distinctions exist between them. Those with Avoidant Personality Disorder often experience anxiety in all areas of life, leading to higher levels of dysfunction, lower levels of sociability, and more consistent feelings of low self-esteem. In contrast, those with Social Anxiety Disorder may only experience anxiety in specific situations, such as public speaking. Nevertheless, it is also common for the two conditions to occur simultaneously.

 

Causes

The exact cause of Avoidant Personality Disorder is unknown. However, it is believed that both genetics and environment play a role.

Environmental factors, particularly in childhood, play an important role. Often, individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder are very shy as children and do not outgrow this shyness as they age. Emotional abuse, criticism, or lack of affection by a parent or caregiver in childhood may result in the development of Avoidant Personality Disorder as well. Rejection by peers may similarly be a risk factor.

 

Symptoms

A person who has an Avoidant Personality Disorder is aware of being uncomfortable in social situations and often feels socially inept. Despite this self-awareness, comments by others about their shyness or nervousness in social settings may feel like criticism or rejection. In addition to their fear of humiliation and rejection, other common traits of people with this disorder include the following:

  • Oversensitive
  • Shy, awkward, and self-conscious in social situations
  • Exaggerate potential problems
  • Seldom try anything new
  • Poor self-image
  • Self-isolation
  • Avoiding conflict (being a "people-pleaser")
  • Avoiding making decisions
  • No close friends/lacking a social network

 

Treatment

Treating Avoidant Personality Disorder is difficult because those with this disorder have deep-rooted patterns of thinking and behavior that have existed for many years. However, individuals tend to be motivated to seek treatment because their disorder causes them significant distress, and most want to develop relationships. This desire can motivate them to follow their treatment plans. There are three main types of treatment available.

✽   Psychotherapy

This is the main treatment for Avoidant Personality Disorder. Psychotherapy is a type of individual counseling that focuses on changing a person’s thinking (cognitive therapy) and behavior (behavioural therapy). Therapy is likely to focus on overcoming fears, changing thought processes and behaviors, helping the person better cope with social situations.

Forms of therapy used may include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic Therapy, and Schema Therapy. Group therapy and social skills training may also be helpful.

✽   Medication

While there are currently no medications specifically approved for treating Avoidant Personality Disorder, if a person has other related disorders such as Depression or Anxiety medication may be prescribed to help with those symptoms. This includes antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.

For the best results, medication should be done in combination with psychotherapy. Treatment for people with this disorder is most effective when family members are involved and supportive. Without treatment, a person with this disorder can become isolated from society, causing long-term difficulties with work and social functioning. They are also at greater risk for depression and substance abuse.

 

Watch the short video attached to get a great summary of this disorder.

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