People with avoidant personality disorder (APD) tend to be withdrawn and socially isolated. They often feel inadequate and suffer from very low self-esteem. If a person has an avoidant personality, she may be hypersensitive to rejection, embarrassment and loss, and go out of her way to avoid situations that may result in these feelings. Doctors aren’t sure what the precise causes of avoidant personality disorder are, but it is likely due to a mix of genetics and environmental influences.
Avoidant Personality Disorder Symptoms
People with avoidant personality disorder tend to avoid situations that would force them to interact socially and cause potential embarrassment. They often steer clear of jobs that involve significant contact with others (such as meetings or presentations) and may prefer work that allows them to remain isolated. In many cases, they only become involved in social situations and relationships when they feel certain that they’ll be accepted. When in intimate relationships, people with avoidant personalities tend to hold back for fear of being ridiculed.
Other symptoms of avoidant personality disorder include:
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism
- Low self-esteem
- Reluctance to take risks.
Environment or Genetics: Personality Disorders
Many personality disorders are believed to have a genetic link. Often, the chance of having the disorder increases significantly if a parent or other relative also has a personality disorder. Like other personality disorders, avoidant personality disorder causes appear to include a mix of genetic, environmental and biological factors. For example, there is some evidence that tempermental factors that may be associated with avoidant personality disorder can be inherited.
Causes of Avoidant Personality Disorder
Scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes avoidant personality disorder. Many believe that a combination of factors eventually result in the development of avoidant personality disorder.
Causes of APD may include parental criticism or rejection during childhood. These individuals may feel a strong need to bond with the parent who rejected them, but instead develop a protective shell to shield themselves from further criticism. They long for intimacy and acceptance, especially from their parents, but their mental barriers protect them from further hurt.
Eventually, these barriers can prevent people from forming relationships with others. As children with avoidant tendencies grow older, they may begin to feel socially isolated and awkward. If they are ridiculed by their peers, the embarrassment only adds to their developing feelings of inadequacy. One study published in the “Journal of the American Academy of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry” (2003) found that adults with avoidant personalty disorder were less involved in hobbies, less popular and had poorer athletic performance than their peers during adolescence.
Other factors that may be related to the development of avoidant personality disorder include:
- Childhood emotional abuse
- Having a disfiguring condition or chronic illness
- Low levels of affection or nurture from parents
- Obesity, in adults.
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