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Avoidant Personality Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

Avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) is a common disorder that is marked by feelings of fear and nervousness. The prevalence of avoidant personality disorder is estimated to be around 1.5% to 2.5% [1] . It is reported that women are at a higher risk of avoidant personality disorder [2] .

People with this disorder start avoiding people socially due to fear of rejection or disapproval and this leads to poor self-esteem.

What Causes Avoidant Personality Disorder [1]

The exact causes of this disorder are unknown. However, it is believed that environmental, genetic, social, and psychological factors cause avoidant personality disorder.

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Symptoms Of Avoidant Personality Disorder

  • Self-isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social inhibition
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Anxiety in social situations
  • Extreme self-consciousness
  • Lack of trust
  • Avoiding intimate relationships
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Avoiding making decisions [3]
  • Feared of getting rejected
  • Thinking of oneself as inferior [4]

Who Is At Risk Of Avoidant Personality Disorder? [5]

It is most likely to develop in the infant and childhood stages and continue to adulthood. Usually, the disorder isn't diagnosed in people younger than 18 years of age. The shyness and avoidance develop as the child grows older.

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What Is The Social Impact Of Avoidant Personality Disorder?

People with this disorder find it difficult to connect with other people and seek friendships. If the person is involved in a relationship, he or she may be afraid to share their personal feelings and this largely affects their close relationships [6] .

At work, people may find it difficult to talk to colleagues and this can hamper his or her work.

Diagnosis Of Avoidant Personality Disorder [7]

As per the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a person diagnosed with avoidant personality disorders should at least have four of the following criteria:

  • Avoidance of occupational activities that involve social contact due to fear of criticism or rejection.
  • Thinking that you are inferior to others
  • Unwilling to get close to other people unless you are sure they like you
  • Holding back in intimate relationships
  • Hesitating to do new things out of fear or embarrassment
  • Inhibition in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy.

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Treatment Of Avoidant Personality Disorder

Medications

The FDA hasn't approved any medicines to treat avoidant personality disorder. However, the doctor may prescribe anti-depressant medications to treat depression and anxiety symptoms associated with avoidant personality disorder.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy [8]

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy, where a therapist assists you in recognizing unhelpful thinking. The therapist helps to change your thought process and aids in developing alternative, healthier thoughts.

Psychodynamic therapy [9]

It is another form of talk therapy that helps you become aware of your unconscious thoughts and it lets you understand how past experiences influence your current behaviour. As a result, it allows you to resolve past emotional pain so that you can move forward.

View Article References
  1. [1] Lampe, L., & Malhi, G. S. (2018). Avoidant personality disorder: current insights.Psychology research and behavior management,11, 55–66.
  2. [2] Lampe, L., & Sunderland, M. (2015). Social phobia and avoidant personality disorder: similar but different?.Journal of personality disorders,29(1), 115-130.
  3. [3] Paniagua FA.Culture-bound syndromes, cultural variations, and psychopathologyin Paniagua FA, Yamada AM (Editors). Handbook of Multicultural Health.Academic Press. 2013.
  4. [4] Ashton M.Individual Differences and Personality (Second Edition).Academic Press. 2013.
  5. [5] Rettew, D. C., Zanarini, M. C., Yen, S., Grilo, C. M., Skodol, A. E., Shea, M. T., … Gunderson, J. G. (2003). Childhood antecedents of avoidant personality disorder: a retrospective study.Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,42(9), 1122–1130.
  6. [6] Eggum, N. D., Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., Valiente, C., Edwards, A., Kupfer, A. S., & Reiser, M. (2009). Predictors of withdrawal: possible precursors of avoidant personality disorder.Development and psychopathology,21(3), 815–838.
  7. [7] Benjamin, L. S. (1996).Interpersonal diagnosis and treatment of personality disorders. Guilford Press.
  8. [8] Emmelkamp, P. M., Benner, A., Kuipers, A., Feiertag, G. A., Koster, H. C., & van Apeldoorn, F. J. (2006). Comparison of brief dynamic and cognitive–behavioural therapies in avoidant personality disorder.The british journal of psychiatry,189(1), 60-64.
  9. [9] Gabbard, G. O. (2000). Psychotherapy of personality disorders.The Journal of psychotherapy practice and research,9(1), 1.
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