Avoidant personality disorder is a personality disorder where people suffering from this tend to avoid human company. Those affected display a pattern of severe social anxiety, social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation and rejection, and avoidance of social interaction despite a strong desire for intimacy. The behavior is usually noticed by early adulthood and occurs in most situations
Individuals with the disorder tend to describe themselves as uneasy, anxious, lonely, unwanted and isolated from others. They often feel themselves unworthy of the relationships they desire, so they shame themselves from ever attempting to begin them. Avoidant individuals often choose jobs of isolation so that they do not have to interact with the public regularly, due to their anxiety and fear of embarrassing themselves in front of others. Some with this disorder may fantasize about idealized, accepting, and affectionate relationships, due to their desire to belong.
As per WHO, this disorder is characterized by at least four of the following:
- persistent and pervasive feelings of tension and apprehension;
- belief that one is socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others;
- excessive preoccupation with being criticized or rejected in social situations;
- unwillingness to become involved with people unless certain of being liked;
- restrictions in lifestyle because of need to have physical security;
- avoidance of social or occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fear of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.
Associated features may include hypersensitivity to rejection and criticism.
What are the causes?
The causes are not clearly underlined, but appear to be influenced by a combination of social, genetic, and psychological factors. Specifically, various anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence have been associated with a temperament characterized by behavioral inhibition, including features of being shy, fearful, and withdrawn in new situations.
Treatment of avoidant personality disorder can employ various techniques, such as social skills training, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, and exposure treatment to gradually increase social contacts, group therapy for practicing social skills, and sometimes drug therapy.
Significant improvement in the symptoms of personality disorders is possible, with the help of treatment and individual effort. Patience and trust building is the key to alleviate the disorder and help the person lead a fruitful social life.