Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by extreme shyness and fear of rejection. People with avoidant personalities fear being humiliated, and they will often avoid social situations because they fear embarrassment. In many cases, people with this disorder prefer isolation to social interaction, while at the same time they long for affection and acceptance. However, loneliness can seem more appealing than the threat of rejection or embarrassment.
What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder?
Avoidant personality disorder is marked by a lifelong pattern of avoiding social situations. It sometimes occurs alongside mood disorders or other personality disorders, and may resemble other conditions such as schizotypal and schizoid personalty disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2010), approximately 5.2 percent of adults have avoidant personality disorder.
How can you distinguish between occasional social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder? While there is no clear-cut personality disorder test that can give you an answer, an honest assessment of your symptoms may help you determine if you should seek help. Avoidant personality disorder symptoms may resemble those of normal shyness in some ways, but they are far more severe and long lasting. If you are sufferring chronic, debilitating symptoms of shyness and social anxiety, talk to a doctor to get the help you need to feel better or more comfortable.
Avoidant Personality Disorder Symptoms
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the following seven symptoms are primary indicators for an avoidant personality disorder diagnosis:
- Avoidance of jobs that involve interpersonal contact
- Fear of being shamed or ridiculed in close relationships
- Inhibited socially because of feelings of inadequacy
- Preoccupation with criticism and rejection
- Reluctance to participate in social activities or get involved with others unless certain of acceptance
- Reluctance to take risks due to fear of humiliation
- Tendency to view self as socially inept.
As with any personality disorder, a person must be at least 18 years old to be officially diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder.
Personality Disorder Test
An avoidant personality disorder diagnosis must be made by a licensed mental health professional. The doctor may wish to perform a thorough physical examination to rule out any potential medical causes of the patient’s symptoms. The patient may be interviewed and asked to complete an avoidant personality disorder quiz or other assessment to see if the symptoms match those of avoidant personality disorder.
The doctor collects the information from the patient’s history, interview and assessment and uses it to make a diagnosis. If an avoidant personality disorder diagnosis is made, the doctor will then discuss treatment options with the patient. Treatment may include medication, therapy or a combination of the two.
Many people with avoidant personalities refuse to seek out treatment. In some cases, they don’t realize that they need help. It’s important that family and friends recognize the symptoms of avoidant personality disorder and encourage the affected person to see a doctor.
BehaveNet.com. (2010). Avoidant personality disorder. Retrieved August 4, 2010, from http://www.behavenet.com/capsules/disorders/avoidantpd.htm
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. (2010). Avoidant personality disorder. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from http://www.minddisorders.com/A-Br/Avoidant-personality-disorder.html
Grohol, J.M. (2010). Avoidant personality disorder. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx8.htm
National Institute of Mental Health. (2010). The numbers count: Mental disorders in America. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Avoidant