Understanding Avoidant Personality Disorder

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

One of a group of personality disorders, avoidant personality disorder is characterised by a lifelong pattern of feelings of social anxiety and fear of rejection and humiliation. 

Not to be confused with social or general anxiety, people with avoidant personality disorder have extreme feelings of anxiety when they are in social situations.  This can lead them to avoiding any kind of social interaction to the point that they isolate themselves from people. 

They suffer with low confidence and self-esteem, have feeling of low self-worth and feel they are inferior to their peers.  Fearing both rejection and humiliation, they struggle to make friends because of this.  It can have a huge impact on their personal relationships and cause them to suffer with anxiety and depression.


As with most personality disorders the exact cause of avoidant personality disorder is not known, however it is believed that it has both genetic and environmental causes.  Childhood trauma or abuse, poor parenting, neglect or lack of affection and encouragement in childhood can all be contributory factors. 

People who were shy from childhood and never out grew it, have difficulty socialising or experienced peer or parental rejection can be more likely to develop it.  It affects both men and women and whilst it can develop in children it is not generally diagnosed until adulthood.  

Symptoms of avoidant personality disorder

People who suffer from avoidant personality disorder fear rejection and potential humiliation so much, that they will literally avoid any kind of unnecessary socializing, other common symptoms can include:

·      Being prone to being over sensitive

·      Are often shy and awkward in social situations

·      Have a poor self-image and lack confidence and self- esteem

·      Suffer with feelings of inadequacy and feelings of inferiority

·      Are loathe to try new things

·      Are often embarrassed and self-conscious

·      Are afraid to take personal risks

·      Over think and worry about things making any problems seem worse than they actually are

·      Are reluctant to make new friends for fear of rejection

·      Can have problems with intimacy in relationships

·      Suffer extreme anxiety in social situations

·      Are easily hurt by the disapproval or criticism of others

·      Self-isolate to avoid being in the company of others

Professional Help

Although people with avoidant personality disorder find it difficult to talk to people they may be more willing to see their doctor as the condition can cause them extreme distress.  This fact can also make them more likely to follow the advice their doctor gives them.  A doctor will be able to prescribe medications for any related anxiety or depression, such as anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants.  They will also recommend you have therapy, as the combination of the two will provide more successful results.  Therapies such as psychotherapy and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) will focus on over coming fears and retraining negative thinking and behaviours, as well as learning coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK).  For more free information click above link.