Avoidant personality disorder is a characterized by a lifelong history of severe social withdrawal and a paralyzing fear of rejection. People with avoidant personalities tend to avoid social situations, which can cause problems in their careers and personal lives. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2010), approximately 5.2 percent of people over the age of 18 have avoidant personality disorder.
Avoidant Personality Style
People with avoidant personality disorder are extremely sensitive to how others perceive them. They are terrified of rejection and fear being viewed negatively. Typically, they have low self-esteem and consider themselves to be inept or inadequate compared to others. These feelings often lead to social awkwardness and inhibition. Because of this, most people with avoidant personalities go out of their way to avoid interacting with others. Other people may perceive them as shy, timid or withdrawn.
Avoidant personality disorder can lead to many problems. Because people with avoidant personalities tend to hold back from relationships, they are often unable to build a strong support network to help them in times of crisis. Many people with avoidant personality disorder long to be accepted by others but are too afraid to establish social connections. In many cases, the threat of rejection is so frightening that being isolated and lonely seems preferable. This disorder can also harm career momentum, as people with avoidant personalities are likely to steer clear of jobs that would require significant social interaction.
In addition to social problems, people with avoidant personalities may also struggle with substance abuse, depression, anxiety disorders or other health conditions.
Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder
People with avoidant personalities tend to see themselves as socially inept, unappealing and otherwise inferior to other people. Typical avoidant personality disorder symptoms include:
- Avoidance of activities that involve interpersonal contact
- Extreme fear of embarrassment
- Extreme shyness
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Preoccupation with criticism or rejection
- Reluctance to take risks
- Restraint in intimate relationships due to fear of ridicule
- Unwillingness to get involved with others unless certain of acceptance
- Social isolation
A person must be at least 18 years old to be officially diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder. Individuals with this condition may be unwilling or unable to seek out treatment on their own; however, untreated avoidant personality disorder can become so severe that it interferes with all aspects of a person’s life. If you know someone with avoidant personality disorder, gently encouraging them to seek treatment may help him learn to cope with his symptoms.
Grohol, J.M. (2010). Avoidant personality disorder. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx8.htm
Mayo Clinic. (2008). Personality disorders: Symptoms. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/personality-disorders/DS00562/DSECTION=symptoms
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
Rettew, D. (2008). Avoidant personality disorder. Retrieved August 4, 2010, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/913360-overview
Vorvick, L., Rogge, T., & Zieve, D. (2008). Avoidant personality disorder. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/avoidant-personality-disorder/overview.html