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What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

written by: Kelly Marquize • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 9/14/2010

A person with avoidant personality disorder is extremely shy, and will avoid social interaction when ever possible. Nearly one percent of the population has avoidant personality disorder. Read on to learn what the symptoms, causes, and diagnosis of this disorder are.

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    What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

    A person with avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) has a life-long history of shyness, feelings of inadequacy, and an extreme fear of rejection. The individual will try their best to avoid social situations such as work, school, or other activities. The individual will refrain from forming relationships with others due to their fear of being hurt. If relationships are formed, it is only when the individual feels that they can trust that the person will not reject them.

    Avoidant personality disorder can be unrelenting in its ability to make a person feel inept and isolated. Social phobia will cause the individual to withdrawal from society and become a sort of recluse. The pain of being rejected or disliked is just too intense; therefore, the person will safeguard themselves by removing that threat all together.

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    Causes

    There are no known causes for avoidant personality disorder.

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    Signs and Symptoms

    Symptoms usually surface by the time a person reaches adulthood. The DSM-IV describes avoidant personality disorder as:

    A pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by 4 (or more) of the following:

    • Avoids occupational activities
    • Is unwilling to get involved with people
    • Shows restraint within intimate relationships
    • Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
    • Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
    • Views themself as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
    • Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

    Additionally, people with avoidant personality disorder are easily upset when criticized or shown signs of disapproval.

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    Diagnosis

    An avoidant personality disorder diagnosis is made by a mental health professional such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Although a general physician may be notified of possible symptoms, they are not qualified to make the diagnosis and will refer their patient likewise. Once a mental health care provider interviews the patient, he or she will determine if they have the disorder by comparing their history and symptoms with those of the DSM-IV. As with all personality disorders, a person must be at least 18 years of age to be diagnosed.

    According the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, “Many individuals exhibit some avoidant behaviors at one point or another in their lives. Occasional feelings of self-doubt and fear in new and unfamiliar social or personal relationships are not unusual, nor are they unhealthy, as these situations may trigger feelings of inadequacy and the wish to hide from social contact in even the most self-confident individuals." Only persons who exhibit symptoms for a prolonged time need to think about talking to their doctor.

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    References

    Barth, L. B., Crawford, A. (n.d.). Avoidant Personality Disorder. Retrieved September 8, 2010, from http://www.avoidantpersonality.com/yahoogroupfiles/ExtensiveExplanation2AvPD.htm

    Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders (2010). Avoidant personality disorder. Retrieved September 8, 2010, from http://www.minddisorders.com/A-Br/Avoidant-personality-disorder.html

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