Avoidant Personality Disorder, or AVPD, is characterized by extreme sensitivity to criticism and shyness. This disorder appears in about 2% of the general US population, affecting men and women equally. Learning about this disorder is crucial to seek appropriate treatment and avoiding its risks. Keep reading to learn more.
What is Avoidant Personality Disorder
Avoidant personality disorder, or AVPD, is one condition that falls under Cluster C personality disorder. Generally, this disorder keeps individuals away from their peers due to a feeling of fear and nervousness.
The disorder is usually associated with social anxiety disorder. That’s why those affected have a high level of sensitivity and feelings of inadequacy. Which also makes them sensitive to being judged by others.
Please note AVPD is underrecognized and poorly studied. Many people regard it as a distinctive diagnostic category. However, it’s a social anxiety disorder due to factors like attachment styles, cognitive processing, and temperament.
What are the Symptoms of AVPD?
Symptoms associated with AVPD can be noticed in childhood but become more apparent in adolescence and early adulthood. That’s why it’s not usually diagnosed in people below 18 years, like most personality disorders. Therapists can only decide on this disorder when there’s an apparent pattern of behaviors that don’t fade with time.
Some of the symptoms associated with this disorder are as follows:
- Avoidance of social events or situations
- Extreme self-consciousness
- Being easily hurt when disapproved or criticized
- Being fearful
- Feeling of inadequacy
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of a social network or close friends
- Lack of trust in others
- Viewing themselves as inferior or socially inept
- Being vigilant of instances of rejection or disapproval
- Social inhibition
Causes of Avoidant Personality Disorder
There’s no specific cause of AVPD. It may result from genetic, social, environmental, and psychological factors. Apart from genetics, the following risk factors are considered the cause of AVPD:
- Having an associated mental health condition like anxiety and depression
- Childhood abuse, neglect, and trauma
- Trauma-related to extreme incidences of rejection and ridicule in childhood
- Going through experiences that altered their appearance beyond societal norms
Diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder
Most AVPD diagnoses are made after a referral to mental health professionals by family physicians. Once a person has been referred to a psychiatrist, they will ask questions to determine whether they have this disorder. However, as noted earlier, its diagnosis should not begin any later than early adulthood.
A mental health professional should look out for at least four of the following characteristics to determine whether someone has AVPD:
- Avoiding any engagement in work activities that require contact with others. This may result from fear of rejection, disapproval, and criticism.
- Avoiding other people until they’re confident they like them.
- Holding back in a relationship since they’re afraid of humiliation or being ridiculed
- Fear of being criticized or rejected in social situations dominate their thoughts
- Avoiding or holding back from situations since they feel inadequate
- Failure to participate in new activities or take personal risks since they’re afraid of being embarrassed
Treatment for Avoidant Personality Disorder
Many people with an avoidant personality disorder do not seek treatment for it. They seek treatment for associated problems that they may be facing, such as anxiety and depression. They also discontinue treatment once their issue has been resolved.
This makes it hard to treat like other personality disorders since it involves an enduring pattern of behavior that is difficult to recognize unless someone seeks therapeutic help.
However, seeking treatment may reduce the symptoms associated with this disorder and improve their coping strategies to manage their anxiety. They may still be shy at some point, but avoidance thoughts won’t dominate them.
Psychotherapy is the best treatment for AVPD. A therapist may use a mixture of psychodynamic or cognitive behavioral therapy depending on a person’s symptoms.
These treatment processes aim to help people understand their unconscious beliefs and how they perceive others. These approaches also help them function better at work and socially. Here are the most common therapies used to treat AVPD.
Talk therapy may include cognitive behavioral therapy, schema therapy, or psychodynamic therapy. It may also include social skills training and group therapy.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist will help the person with AVPD learn how to change unhelpful thinking patterns. With the psychodynamic approach, therapists help patients become aware of their past pain. As well as, experiences, and conflicts that could have contributed to their current symptoms.
Schema therapy is built on cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques that a therapist may use. It focuses on building a therapeutic relationship between a client and the therapist to improve their daily functioning. It also helps them learn how to change based on their understanding and reframing of their past experiences.
There’s no specific medication for AVPD. However, a therapist may prescribe medication for related disorders like anxiety and depression to help with a patient’s symptoms. For instance, they may use medication for depression to improve patients’ moods or decrease their anxiety levels.
Risks Associated with Failure to Treat AVPD
Those that fail to seek treatment for AVPD usually continue isolating themselves from their family and friends. This may result in other psychiatric disorders such as:
- Substance abuse
Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatment at D’ Amore Mental Health
It’s difficult to determine whether a person has avoidant personality disorder since it exhibits symptoms close to other personality disorders. However, with the intervention of a therapist, it is easier to identify and implement relevant treatment approaches. Otherwise, anyone with this disorder is at risk of depression or substance abuse.
D’ Amore Mental Health is ready to help everyone affected by avoidant personality disorder cope with their situation. Our evidence-based treatment approach and three-to-one staff-to-patient ratio offers the best treatment for this disorder.
Contact us today for more information about our services or to learn how you can verify your insurance.