What is Avoidant Personality Disorder? Causes, Symptoms and More

The disorder of personality by avoidance is a permanent pattern of anxiety and social timidity extreme, where sufferers experience persistent feelings of inadequacy, lack of self-confidence, inferiority, and unworthiness, have a tense attitude, they tend to be incredibly sensitive, especially to rejection, and consider themselves incapable of relating to others and of being socially successful.

This can be very distressing for sufferers, mainly because they fear embarrassment, blush, or criticism if they try to bond with others. As a result, affected people will try to withdraw from everyday social situations and seek jobs that involve little contact with other people.

Sufferers tend to be depressed and often show signs of other personality disorders, such as borderline, paranoid, schizotypal, and schizoid personality disorder; However, this disorder is very similar to social phobia. Ultimately it is treated more afraid of social intimacy than social situations.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

They want to be in relationships and participate in fun social activities, but they lack the confidence and interpersonal skills needed to succeed in these situations. All of this makes treatment very challenging.

What are the symptoms that occur in avoidant personality disorder?

As mentioned above, people with this disorder will exhibit various common traits and characteristics. Although these can vary slightly from person to person, generally, the symptoms are pretty specific. However, this does not mean that someone showing signs of avoidant behavior has the disorder, as everyone from time to time may feel hypersensitive and antisocial, and just those exhibiting multiple traits may qualify for a diagnosis.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Avoidance of occupational activities.
  • You feel hurt and offended by the criticism or disapproval of others.
  • There are no close friends.
  • I refuse to get involved with other people.
  • Reluctance to take personal risks or participate in new activities or life changes.
  • Extreme shyness in social situations.
  • I was worried about criticism.
  • Exaggeration of potential difficulties.
  • Retain in intimate relationships.
  • The perception is that they are socially inept.
  • You are blaming others for creating a problem instead of dealing with it.
  • Catastrophizing: always assuming the worst-case scenario.
  • Depression and mood swings.
  • Escape to fantasy worlds and daydream about ideal relationships.
  • Fear of abandonment.
  • They were barely speaking when forced to participate in a social situation.
  • Hypervigilant – Having an unhealthy obsession with the actions, thoughts, and interests.
  • Passive-aggressive behavior.
  • Self-hatred and self-victimization.

What are the causes of avoidant personality disorder?

No one knows precisely why someone develops a personality disorder of this type; the following can contribute to this and other diseases and phobias.

Genetic factors

A twin study in Norwegian young adults indicated a heritability of 27% to 35% for this disorder. It is estimated that 83% of these genes are also related to other personality disorders.

Environmental factors

Personality deficits develop mainly due to the inability to learn proper coping skills as they grow up. People who avoid do not know how to navigate social challenges in a way that benefits them or anyone they interact with. As a result, they continually rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms learned early in life.

Neglect of children

Retrospective studies in adults with personality disorders have reported that 61% of these people suffered emotional abuse in the form of neglect as children. The researchers concluded that child neglect is a risk factor.

How can avoidance personality disorder be diagnosed?

Many people may experience characteristics of the disorder at some point in their lives; there is a specific criterion that health professionals must refer to determine whether or not someone has this condition. It is important to note that personality traits and characteristics only qualify as avoidable personality disorder symptoms when they begin to have a long-term negative impact on a person’s lifestyle, health, and well-being.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), at least four of the following criteria must be met to diagnose it accurately:

  • Avoid occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal conflict due to fear of rejection.
  • Unwillingness to get involved with others unless acceptance is final.
  • Restrictions within relationships due to an irrational fear of being ridiculed by criticism or possible rejection in social situations.
  • Inhibition in interpersonal situations due to feelings of inadequacy.
  • Low self-esteem and perception of oneself as impersonal or inferior to others.

Professionals will also look for signs that someone is suffering from other mental health problems, including social phobias and mood and anxiety disorders; avoidant personality disorder usually occurs alongside these problems.

For example, people with depression may begin to withdraw from social situations and experience feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, typical symptoms. Alternatively, isolation and insecurity occur as well.

How is avoidant personality disorder treated?

Psychotherapy is the most effective treatment; your therapist may use psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy; the goal of treatment is to help you identify your unconscious beliefs about yourself and how others see you and help you function better socially.

psychodynamic therapy

It is a form of talk therapy that helps you become aware of your unconscious thoughts. It can help you understand how past experiences influence your current behavior; this allows you to examine and resolve past emotional pain and conflict. You can move forward with a healthier perspective on yourself and how others view you.

The psychodynamics produce lasting results with benefits that continue after treatment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

It is another form of talk therapy where a therapist helps you recognize and replace unhealthy beliefs and thought processes and help you develop alternative and healthier thoughts. The cognitive-behavioral treatment is very effective in these cases.


No drugs have been approved to treat personality disorders. However, your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medication if you have concurrent depression or anxiety.

Related mental health disorders and conditions.

A mental disorder that often occurs in conjunction with an avoidant personality disorder is a borderline personality disorder. This is believed to be because both diseases involve an overwhelming fear of criticism and rejection.

It is also common in people with anxiety disorders; it is suggested that up to half of those who have panic disorder with agoraphobia also have an avoidant personality disorder, and up to half of those with obsessive-compulsive disorder are also found in those who suffer from a social anxiety disorder.

Website | + posts

Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.