Avoidant Personality Disorder

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Avoidant personality disorder is a considered a cluster C personality disorder since cluster C personality disorders involve anxiety and fear.  Individuals affected by avoidant personality disorder have difficulty socializing with others, feel incredibly inadequate, are very  easily offended by the negative appraisal of others, and seek to avoid social gatherings even though they crave contact with others.

In addiction to feeling anxious and lonely, those who suffer from avoidant personality disorder feel that they are outcasts.  Their antisocial behavior negatively affects their employment and their relationships.  It is estimated that 1% of the population is suffering from avoidant personality disorder and that men and women seem to be equally affected.

What are the Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder?

A person who suffers from avoidant personality disorder will be easily hurt by the negative comments of others, not able to form close friendships and experience difficulty interacting with others for fear of doing something embarrassing, feelings of inferiority and loneliness, difficulty meeting new people for fear of rejection, low self-esteem, general pessimism, self-isolation.

Patients affected by this disorder will often avoid employment that involves close interactions with others, and find intimate relationships to be uncomfortable.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Causes

It is thought that avoidant personality disorder could occur as a result of a combination of genetic and social factors. In many instances, those with the condition had painful childhood experiences of rejection or criticism from parents. Rejection by peers, for example being bullied at school, could also contribute to the disorder.

Many people with the disorder began to show traits of it in childhood. For example, they may be incredibly shy, very sensitive to criticism and feel fearful of social interactions and rejection. However, many of these traits can be found among children who do not go on to be diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder, since they can be a part of our natural developmental process.

This suggests that their could be a genetic or biological factor at play which makes it more difficult for some children to “grow out” of these traits. This may be particularly true if they have also experienced painful rejections or criticisms from parents as mentioned above.

How is Avoidant Personality Disorder Treated?

Both medications (antidepressants and anti-anxiety agents) and talk therapy are considered to be the most effective tools in treating avoidant personality disorder.

Therapy

Therapy needs to take place over a long period of time for best results and requires commitment on the part of the individual suffering with avoidant personality disorder.  Both individual and group therapy can be effective although, due to the nature of this disorder, it might be difficult for the therapist to convince the patient to join a psychotherapy group.

Medication

It is worth noticing that medications are generally less effective than psychotherapy in the treatment of avoidant personality disorder.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Prevention

Since avoidant personality disorder tends to be caused by social factors, particularly by interactions and relationships with family, it is important to create a nurturing home environment for children. By encouraging the expression of emotion in children and avoiding harsh criticism or rejection of their emotions, their social skills and confidence in social interactions could be increased.

Children who have already dealt with painful events in their life which could increase their risk of the disorder may benefit from having therapy or counselling. This can help them to process their feelings of rejection and find methods for coping with social interactions which would usually make them incredibly uncomfortable. This may help them to grow out of traits of avoidant personality disorder before they reach their teenage years or adulthood.

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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 14, 2017
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