Avoidant Personality Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) causes an affected person to struggle with relationships. People with AVPD struggle to feel comfortable with other people. They tend to have a persistent fear of being judged.

People with AVPD crave healthy relationships. Their fear of judgement often holds them back from being able to connect with others.

Those who suffer from AVPD have a fear of judgement. This fear goes beyond typical nerves people may experience when meeting new people. It causes a level of social anxiety that is so intense that it holds affected people back from engaging with others.

The fear of judgement or being seen as ‘less than’ holds people with AVPD back from engaging with society. Career, academics, and social skills are all affected by AVPD.

People with AVPD struggle with a chronic fear of opening up to others. They crave closeness with others. It is their fear of criticism causes them to withdraw from most opportunities to develop a relationship with another. Their fear of embarrassment and rejection creates a habit of avoiding social situations.

Avoidant personality disorder causes people to assume that they will not be accepted by others. Because of this assumption, they try to avoid social situations. When social situations cannot be avoided, affected people will enter with an emotional guard. This guard can be difficult to break down. This is because the affected person will remain uncomfortable until they are confident that they have been accepted by the group.

People who are affected by AVPD are often desperate for meaningful relationships with others. They isolate themselves from social settings because they are afraid of rejection and judgement. This does not mean they are not interested in friendships, relationships and companionship.

Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder

The symptoms of avoidant personality disorder are the most noticeable in social situations. People with AVPD will try to avoid any social settings, out of fear of feeling exposed or rejected.

Settings that involve interacting other people tend to trigger distress in an affected person. They may struggle in social situations that involve:

  • Career
  • School
  • Family
  • Hobbies
  • Romantic settings

A person who struggles with AVPD will struggle with signs and symptoms of the condition. Common conditions of avoidant personality disorder include:

  • Avoidant behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Intense anxiety in social situations
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of socializing
  • Assuming others are judging them
  • Extreme sensitivity to real or imagined criticism or teasing
  • Negative self-talk
  • Seeming quiet or disengaged in social settings
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Intense fears of embarrassment, criticism or rejection
  • Sense of inferiority

Causes of Avoidant Personality Disorder

At this time, there is no known cause of avoidant personality disorder. AVPD is a disorder that may have different reasons for developing.

These reasons may depend on a number of traits. Such traits include a person’s personality, lifestyle and upbringing. A person with AVPD may be shy or standoffish. They may also be introverted and prefer solitary activities. Those who tend to be emotionally sensitive are at higher risk of struggling with AVPD.

There are risk factors that may contribute to the development of AVPD. The development of AVPD reflects qualities of a person’s childhood.

The fear of rejection and avoidance of other people can stem from a lack of a nurturing and secure home environment while growing up. It can also derive from being bullied by peers as a child or having critical parents.

Children who are shy and introverted are also at high risk of developing AVPD. These children often struggle with making or keeping friends.

The following are common risk factors for AVPD:

  • Being shy as a child
  • Growing up in an insecure household
  • A lack of affection or nurturing from parents
  • Difficulty making friends as a child
  • Being bullied by peers
  • Developing a distrust for people due to social trauma
  • Struggling with social anxiety as a child
  • A history of substance abuse or addiction

People are also at increased risk of AVPD if they struggle with other mental health conditions. There are mental health conditions that often co-occur with avoidant personality disorder.

The following are disorders that people may struggle with along with AVPD:

Treatment Options For Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant personality disorder can be a difficult disorder to treat. People who suffer from AVPD struggle with feeling comfortable in social situations, even though they crave deep, meaningful relationships with others.

This struggle is often constant for an affected person. It can be difficult for a person with AVPD to open themselves up to the possibility of treatment and recovery.

People with AVPD tend to need long term talk therapy. Talk therapy for AVPD focuses primarily on addressing and modifying negative thought patterns. This process is most commonly used in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular form of therapy. It teaches a person to address their negative thoughts. With CBT, a person learns how to challenge the thoughts that cause them anxiety and distress. They learn healthier patterns of thinking. This helps a person with AVPD can begin to learn how to open themselves up to others.

It can also be helpful to incorporate mindfulness practices into therapy for AVPD. Mindfulness practices can help a person stay grounded in the present moment.

With mindfulness skills, a person with AVPD can learn skills to focus on the here and now. This prevents them from getting caught up in their own anxious thoughts.

Mindfulness practices also teach skills that involve checking in with oneself. This helps to ensure healthy thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

The discomfort that comes from social situations can cause affected people to feel subordinate to others. This results in resentment to people who mean no harm to them. This pattern can be challenged with a combination of CBT and mindfulness practices.

It does take time, patience and repetition to learn these thought challenging skills. Once mastered, a person with AVPD can make a difference in how they perceive others and themselves.

Link To This Condition

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