Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) is characterized by extreme discomfort in social situations. The level of discomfort is enough to cause avoidance of social situations and relationships. This motivation does not come from the enjoyment of being alone, rather, it occurs as a result of intense fears of rejection, feelings of inadequacy, and extreme sensitivity to negative criticism.
Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) is relatively common. In the United States, researchers estimate 2.36% of the population suffers from AVPD. While both men and women can develop AVPD, the rates are significantly higher for women. Avoidant Personality Disorder is serious as it normally begins at an early age and can become chronic. Moreover, this disorder can result in significant impairment, distress, and disability.
Some people are naturally more introverted in their personality. They enjoy time alone and get less joy out of large gatherings where there are many people they don't know and have little in common with. But while those who have a more introverted personality type enjoy a certain amount of alone time, they also maintain close social relationships and participate in social activities at a level that they feel comfortable with.
An important distinction between an introvert and a person suffering from AVPD is the motivation and outcome of avoiding social situations. While an introvert seeks pleasure in alone time, a person with AVPD is attempting to avoid emotional pain caused by social interactions that may not go well. We all have uncomfortable moments with people sometimes, but we don't avoid others to the point that we become isolated as a result. This can happen for a person with AVPD.
If fear of embarrassment and rejection is driving you to avoid others and your life is becoming increasingly isolated, you may be suffering from AVPD.
The good news is, AVPD is treatable. With the support and understanding of an experienced therapist, you can begin to build confidence and develop adaptive traits that will help you function better in social situations.
Treatment for AVPD will help you build stronger relationships in your personal life and at work or school. Additionally, therapy will help you begin to feel less distress around criticism or rejection. Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) are effective in treating AVPD. Importantly, CBT is also effective for reducing and preventing depression and anxiety for those suffering from personality disorders.
AVPD can cause significant personal distress. This disorder can also cause problems at work or in school and university. Interacting with others is an important source of life satisfaction and ability to function in our occupations. If you feel you are avoiding social situations out of fear, the sooner you get help the sooner you can begin to enjoy and participate fully in your life.
About the author: Dr. Daniel Winarick is a licensed clinical psychologist in Manhattan. He specializes in treating a range of mental health conditions, and provides educational testing for children and adults, including neuropsychological testing, ADD testing, psycho-educational evaluations, emotional functioning testing, and personality testing.
To get help for a personality disorder, click here for a list of therapists in your area.