Avoidant personality disorder is a mental illness that’s characterized by a lifelong pattern of extreme social inhibition, sensitivity to rejection, and feelings of inadequacy. They may suffer from extreme insecurities and usually have very low self-esteem. Being criticized or disappointing someone else is a great concern for someone suffering from avoidant personality disorder. These intense insecurities make it very difficult for them to develop and maintain healthy relationships with others.

Someone with this disorder will often be struck with feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy, and sensitivity to negative criticism and rejection. [1] Someone with this disorder may isolate themselves or avoid certain situations or places in an attempt to help temporarily relieve their painful symptoms. Though this may give them some momentary relief, such behavior will only exacerbate their symptoms in the long term.

Causes

Like virtually all personality disorders, the cause of someone developing this illness is not known. However, there are several factors that may play a role in the development of it. For example, genetics and one’s environment may play a role. Experiencing rejection from an early age may also contribute to the development of this disorder.

The avoidant behavior typically starts in infancy or early childhood with isolation, shyness, and avoidance of new places or strangers. The majority of people who display shyness in their early ages typically tend to grow out of this type of behavior. However, those who develop avoidant personality disorder become more shy and isolated as they enter into adolescence and adulthood. [2]



Symptoms

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feels socially inept
  • Self-isolation
  • Hesitance to get involved with people
  • Preoccupied with being criticized or rejected
  • No close friends
  • Exaggeration of difficulties
  • Unwilling to take risks

Diagnostic Criteria

To get diagnosed with this illness, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or a therapist who can diagnose mental illnesses. According to Health Line, to get diagnosed with this disorder, you must show at least four of the following characteristics: [3]

  • You tend to avoid work activities that involve contact with other people. This is due to fear of rejection, criticism, or disapproval.
  • You’re unlikely to try out new things or to take risks in life due to fear of potential embarrassment.
  • You are unwilling to get involved with other people unless you are completely sure that they like you.
  • You tend to hold back in relationships because you are afraid that you will be embarrassed or ridiculed.
  • You tend to limit or avoid social situations altogether due to feelings of inadequacy.
  • You think you are inferior to other people, inept, and unappealing.
  • You are virtually obsessed by fear of being criticized or rejected in social situations.



Treatments

Treatment of this disorder usually involves a type of therapy called psychotherapy which involves an accredited therapist or psychologist that has a significant amount of experience with treating this particular disorder. [4] Medication may also be able to help treat certain symptoms of this disorder as well (e.g. anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, etc.).


References

1) “Avoidant Personality Disorder.” Web MD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/avoidant-personality-disorders#1
2) “Avoidant Personality Disorder.” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/avoidant-personality-disorder
3) “Avoidant Personality Disorder.” Health Line. https://www.healthline.com/health/avoidant-personality-disorder#diagnosis
4) “Avoidant Personality Disorder.” Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/disorders/avoidant-personality-disorder/