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Avoidant Personality Disorder

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Social Impact of Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant personality disorder causes a fear of rejection that often makes it difficult to connect with other people. You may be hesitant to seek out friendships, unless you are certain that the other person will like you. When you are involved in a relationship, you may be afraid to share personal information or talk about your feelings. This can make it difficult to maintain intimate relationships or close friendships.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), a person diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder needs to show at least four of the following criteria:

  • Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.
  • Is unwilling to get involved with people unless they are certain of being liked.
  • Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed.
  • Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations.
  • Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy.
  • Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others.
  • Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing.

Avoidant behavior may commonly be seen in children or adolescents, but a diagnosis of a personality disorder cannot be made in childhood because shyness, fear of strangers, social awkwardness, or being sensitive to criticism are often a normal part of child and adolescent development.

A mental health professional can assess your symptoms, make an accurate diagnosis, and suggest the appropriate treatment options.

 

Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatments

As with other personality disorders, a mental health professional will design a treatment plan that is appropriate for you. Avoidant personality disorder treatments vary, but they will likely include talk therapy. If a co-existing condition, such as depression or anxiety disorder, is also diagnosed, appropriate medications may also be used.

Avoidant Personality Disorder and Other Conditions

Other mental health disorders can occur along with avoidant personality disorder. Treatments in these cases will be designed to help with the symptoms of each disorder. A few of the conditions that most frequently occur with avoidant personality disorder include:

  • Social phobia, in which a person experiences overwhelming anxiety and self-consciousness in common social situations. 
  • Dependent personality disorder, in which people rely excessively on others for advice or to make decisions for them. 
  • Borderline personality disorder, in which people have difficulties in many areas including social relationships, behavior, mood, and self-image.

Many avoidant personality disorder symptoms are commonly shared among these other conditions, particularly in the case of generalized social phobia. Because of this, the disorders can be easily confused. It may take some time for a mental health professional to make a clear diagnosis and choose the appropriate treatments for you.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on June 23, 2013
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