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How to Overcome Avoidant Personality Disorder

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 12/12/2010

Avoidant personality disorder is difficult to treat, but there is a chance of relief for those who suffer from it. The process isn't easy, but the rewards are worth the risk. In this article, some ways to overcome avoidant personality disorder are outlined.

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    Problems Associated with Overcoming Avoidant Personality Disorder

    Personality disorders are difficult to treat for many reasons. Their cause is unknown, diagnosis is difficult and rare, and effective treatments are difficult to create and implement. Avoidant personality disorder (APD) is a mental illness characterized by a lifelong pattern of inadequacy, extreme shyness, and sensitivity to rejection1. Typically, those who suffer from this personality disorder are afraid to enter relationships, but they long for the intimacy of them.

    Because of this intense fear of rejection, using self-help methods to overcome avoidant personality disorder is usually not effective and not advised2. Patients would need a strong motivation to change, but their fears are deep seeded and difficult to address on their own. Likewise, using medications to treat AVD is not normally effective, so, with these methods out of the picture, the remaining options are limited.

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    How to Overcome Avoidant Personality Disorder Effectively

    It's not uncommon for people who suffer from APD to recognize that their thoughts and behaviors are problematic. Still, allowing themselves to receive treatment is a tremendously difficult first step because they have to face some of their most detrimental fears. However, they will quickly find that the risk is well worth the reward.

    Treatment is a slow process, but it can work if the person seeking treatment follows the recommendations of the therapist closely in spite of their fears3. The most effective treatments for APD are behavioral modifications and talk therapy that focus on changing common negative pervasive thoughts. The negative thoughts will likely persist for a long time before someone suffering from APD no longer believes them to be true. Sadly, these thoughts may never fully be relieved, and self-esteem is rarely addressed in talk therapy sessions because improvements are very unlikely. However, there is a component which can complement talk therapy.

    Using behavioral modifications for those who suffer from this mental illness is the best way of how to overcome avoidant personality disorder. One form of behavioral modification known as desensitization is used regularly. This involves slowly moving the patient from a safe experience to one that has been avoided in the past. This step probably wouldn't occur until the third or fourth month of treatment, but desensitization techniques show the person that these experiences which have been avoided are not as awful as they've imagined. Once this has been accomplished, people who suffer from avoidant personality disorder are on a track to overcoming their mental illness.

    Another technique used to treat this disorder is group therapy, but this is not used until after the sufferer becomes comfortable with their therapist. Then, they can be incorporated into a group. Ultimately, this may also prove to be helpful by providing a level of social support to help facilitate healthy behaviors and thoughts. This method can also help to identify barriers which may arise in the future.

    These are the more effective ways to overcome this mental illness in the long term. Treatment will be difficult to enter, and the person may wish to leave it immediately so they will need all the encouragement and support that their nearest and dearest can muster.