Section 1: List of the symptoms for this disorder:
Avoidance of activities involving interpersonal contact or communication due to fears of ostracism or exclusion/rejection.
Extremely reluctant to try new things or take risks due to fears of embarrassing themselves or being the focus of attention.
Inability to be one’s self in a group setting due to feelings of inadequacy, and fears of criticism or rejection. (NOTE: This is not only for new settings, this inhibition of freely being one’s self persists even in comfortable or familiar settings.)
Fears of inadequacy, criticism and rejection can be so severe that the individual might appear “distracted” or preoccupied when in a public place or group setting that requires communication. This occurs because the fears/worries are so overpowering that they block out other thoughts.
Very fearful of meeting new people unless they are CERTAIN that they will be accepted and treated properly.
Very poor views of oneself, centered around feeling inadequate, inferior to others, being unappealing to others and being an outcast.
Low self-esteem paired with being highly sensitive (hypersensitive) to negative interactions (rejection, criticism, exclusion, embarrassment, etc.)
Difficulty in intimate relationships (both romantic and platonic) over fears of embarrassment, rejection, disapproval and potentially feeling ashamed.
Avoidant Personality Disorder is most commonly diagnosed in adults, as it is categorized as a diagnosis for a long-standing pattern of behavior, therefore it is rare to receive this diagnosis while still mentally developing (teenage years). A simple description of this disorder would be intruding thoughts centered around fears of inadequacy, embarrassment, failure or not fitting in. These intruding thoughts are persistent and reach the point of rendering the individual as hypersensitive to rejection, embarrassment and inadequacy, to an extent where they will avoid social interaction as much as possible. This resultant hypersensitivity becomes controlling and begins to shape the individual’s social life, they can be described as “shy”, “isolated” or “lonely”. This disorder does not only affect optional social behavior, but it can interfere with employment as well, rendering the individual so uncomfortable that they might even skip work meetings or fail to meet the demands for advancement in their field. This disorder causes severe distress for the individual in their daily social, work, or family life by molding the individual into a pattern of long and intrusive thoughts that interfere with daily functioning. Due to the intrusive thoughts, individuals often have difficulty maintaining relationships and developing new relationships, particularly romantic relationships.
Treatment- The most common form of treatment for Avoidant Personality Disorder is continual therapy or counseling. As the individuals with this disorder are characterized as having very low self-esteem, they often need guidance from a professional to learn how to positively think of themselves and learn how to manage and potentially decrease their intrusive negative thoughts. Treatment usually consists of regular and frequent therapy sessions to teach the individual how to think more objectively about themselves. Having an additional person with whom the individual could continue to practice their new skills of positive thinking is recommended, such skills could be practiced with a trusted Listener, and it would be most beneficial if the individual and Listener had a continual working relationship, just as the individual has with their therapist. As relationships can be uncomfortable for those with Avoidant Personality Disorder, developing these working relationships can be critical steps in the individual’s path to overcoming their difficulties.