Avoidant personality disorder is a socially crippling condition that is characterized by an individual’s fear of rejection. The person may desire to have close interpersonal relationships but because of their extreme fear, they shy away from social interactions leaving them isolated and distressed.
When they are in a social setting, they often feel inferior and awkward. They see themselves as flawed and as incapable of having meaningful relationships. Their poor self-image and fear of embarrassment only fuels this distorted way of thinking (Hoermann et. al., 2011). Insight into avoidant personality disorder therapy yields a small glimpse of hope.
Avoidant Personality Disorder Therapy
Due to the nature of this disorder, affected persons may never feel comfortable enough to seek help. If they do, there are only a few treatment methods available. Generally, psychotherapy is the most beneficial form of treatment for avoidant personality disorder. Medications are typically not used because of they may actually interfere with psychotherapeutic treatment (PsychCentral, 2010).
- Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most effective form of psychotherapy when treating avoidant personality disorder. Thought patterns are at the core of cognitive-behavioral therapy as it is believed that faulty thinking leads to the disorder. In this type of treatment, the therapist will help the client to understand the origin of the distorted thoughts. Examining these thoughts will aid in revealing their unrealistic assumptions. The therapist will also help the client to evaluate current relationships and bring to the forefront the client’s value to these relationships. When the client begins to see that people really do value their friendship and like to spend time with them, then the healing begins.
- Medications: Typically medications will only hinder any real chance of successful treatment. However, there has been some success with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). The problem with this medication is that the client will have to change their diet. Foods that contain tyramine, must be avoided, as they have adverse effects on the medication. Tyramine can be found in most cheeses, liver, red wines, sherry, vermouth, beans with broad pods, soy sauce, sauerkraut, and meat extracts (Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2010).
- Group Therapy: This exposes the client to a social setting in a controlled environment. The person may be apprehensive about the idea of being in a group, but it will be helpful in teaching them social skills while addressing their fear of being around others. If the client is willing to continue with this type of treatment, then there is a good chance that they will become comfortable enough to be in a social setting outside of group therapy.
The success of treatment lies with the individual. A high-functioning person will have a better chance of improving their social skills to the point where they can function within a social setting without extreme awkwardness. However, dramatic changes are not to be expected.
Unfortunately, a low-functioning person will typically disengage from treatment and remain isolated from society. Insight into avoidant personality disorder therapy is limited, but perhaps as we learn more about the origins of this disorder, more successful treatment options will become available.
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders (2010). Avoidant personality disorder. Retrieved January 16, 2011, from https://www.minddisorders.com/A-Br/Avoidant-personality-disorder.html
Hoermann, S., Zupanick, C. E., Dombeck, M. (2011). Personality disorders: Examples of distorted thinking patterns. Retrieved January 16, 2011, from https://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=475
PsychCentral (2010). Avoidant personality disorder treatment. Retrieved January 16, 2011, from https://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx8t.htm