Avoidant Personality Disorder: Causes and Symptoms

avoidant personality disorder

Do you approach new situations enthusiastically and with few reservations, or do you tend to take a more cautious approach? Are you excited about going to social gatherings, or does the idea of attending a party or networking event make your stomach clench and your heart race? If you have a personality disorder, your answers to these questions probably go beyond the traditional extrovert/introvert binary. For example, avoidant personality disorder can have severe ramifications for your career, your relationships and your self-confidence.

Avoidant Personality Disorder vs. Shyness

While avoidant personality disorder shares some character traits with shyness and social anxiety, the symptoms tend to be more extreme and interfere with your ability to maintain healthy relationships and enjoy a high quality of life.

Hallmarks of APD include the following.

  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-imposed isolation
  • Fear of criticism or teasing
  • Feeling intensely uncomfortable, embarrassed or unwelcome in various social situations, even among friends and family
  • An inferiority complex
  • Refusal to speak up in case you say something “wrong”

APD Causes, Symptoms and Social Impact

Health professionals have yet to pinpoint the exact causes of avoidant personality disorder, but they may include environmental and social factors such as emotional abuse or lack of affection from parental figures. Often, adults with APD are painfully shy as children and never outgrow it.

People with APD often make excuses to miss work, school or social gatherings because they find the idea of being around others unpleasant. If you have APD, you are likely acutely aware of how socially inept you feel and will go out of your way to escape any scenario that puts you “on display.” You may also hesitate to form new friendships with people for fear that they’ll judge or mock you.

Avoidant personality disorder can make it challenging to maintain intimate relationships if you are terrified of humiliation or rejection. Low self-confidence might also cause you to immediately assume others would never like you because your negative inner monologue tells you that you aren’t worthy of happiness.

Receiving a Diagnosis of APD

The DSM-5 defines APD with the following criteria:

  • Avoidance of career choices involving significant interpersonal contact because of fears of criticism, disapproval or rejection
  • Unwillingness to get involved with people unless you are certain they’ll like you in return
  • Restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  • Preoccupation with being criticized or rejected in social situations
  • Inhibition in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
  • Unappealing or inferior self-image
  • Unusual reluctance to take personal risks or engage in any new activities that might prove embarrassing

Though APD is treatable, many people do not seek help because they believe they deserve to be unhappy. However, the long-term outlook for unaddressed APD may involve a further loss of enjoyment in life, withdrawal from loved ones and the use of maladaptive coping mechanisms.

A mental health professional can diagnose you with avoidant personality disorder after talking with you about your symptoms, how often they occur and their impact on your life. They may also ask you questions to determine whether you have any co-occurring disorders such as general anxiety, agoraphobia, social phobia or substance abuse.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment at Rising Roads Recovery

If you are struggling with a co-occurring substance use and mental health disorder, treating both issues simultaneously is essential for your successful recovery. Contact us today to learn how our licensed clinical treatment team can help you live a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.

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