Avoidant Personality Disorder


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People suffering from the Avoidant Personality Disorder feel inadequate, unworthy, inferior, and lacking in self-confidence. As a result, they are shy and socially inhibited. Aware of their real (and, often, imagined) shortcomings, they are constantly on the lookout, are hypervigilant and hypersensitive. Even the slightest, most constructive and well-meant or helpful criticism and disagreement are perceived as complete rejection, ridicule, and shaming. Consequently, they go to great lengths to avoid situations that require interpersonal contact - such as attending school, making new friends, accepting a promotion, or teamwork activities. Hence the Avoidant Personality Disorder.

Inevitably, Avoidants find it difficult to establish intimate relationships. They "test' the potential friend, mate, or spouse to see whether they accept them uncritically and unconditionally. They demand continue verbal reassurances that they really wanted, desired, loved, or cared about.

When asked to describe Avoidants, people often use terms such as shy, timid, lonely, isolated, "invisible", quiet, reticent, unfriendly, tense, risk-averse, resistant to change (reluctant), restricted, "hysterical", and inhibited.

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Avoidance is a self-perpetuating vicious cycle: the Avoidant's stilted mannerisms, fears for her personal safety and security, and stifled conduct elicit the very ridicule and derision that he or she so fears!

Even when confronted with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, Avoidants doubt that they are socially competent or personally appealing. Rather than let go of their much cherished self-image, they sometimes develop persecutory delusions. For instance, they may regard honest praise as flattery and a form of attempted manipulation. Avoidants ceaselessly fantasize about ideal relationships and how they would outshine everyone else in social interactions but are unable to do anything to realize their Walter Mitty fantasies.

In public settings, Avoidants tend to keep to themselves and are very reticent. When pressed, they self-deprecate, act overly modest, and minimize the value of their skills and contributions. By doing so, they are trying to preempt what they believe to be inevitable forthcoming criticism by colleagues, spouses, family members, and friends.

From the entry I wrote for the Open Site Encyclopedia:

The disorder affects 0.5-1% of the general population (or up to 10% of outpatients seen in mental clinics). It is often comorbid with certain Mood and Anxiety Disorders, with the Dependent and Borderline Personality Disorders, and with the Cluster A personality disorder (Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal).

Read Notes from the therapy of an Avoidant Patient

Many additional Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Personality Disorders - click HERE!

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