AVOIDANT PERSONALITY DISORDER
Ndidi, age 20, has recently begun attending university away in a town far away from home. from her parents’ home where she had lived previously and struggles to find consistent work in her new town to support her living expenses. She often feels she is being judged for being “too quiet” by prospective employers, making her clam up further and causing her to lose the job opportunity. Instead, she works odd jobs helping people clean their houses and shops and doing freelance writing for clients she finds online. In addition to her frustration about her ability to find work, Ndidi feels deeply alone. Although she shares an apartment with roommates, she often turns down their invitations to go out, feeling she is not currently in the right “mental space” to engage with them and that this would only cause them to ultimately reject her if she chose to spend time with them in her current state. Instead, Ndidi isolates herself in her room and avoids entering common living spaces when her roommates are home. She begins to feel more depressed and often eats until uncomfortably full to avoid facing the deep discomfort she feels with herself. A conversation with her mother about her mental health convinces her to seek therapy for depression and possible social anxiety. After a psychological evaluation, her psychologist suggests she meets many of the criteria for avoidant personality. Ndidi spends time in therapy learning about avoidant personality and examining some of her currently held thought patterns about her own social skills and ability to interact with others. While she still occasionally struggles with a desire to hold back from intimate friendships and relationships, Ndidi starts to become more confident in her social skills with the help of therapy. Soon, she finds steady work, and she continues to work with her therapist to build skills that will allow her to form healthy connections with others.
People with avoidant personality disorder tend to be good candidates for treatment because their disorder causes them significant distress, and most want to develop relationships. Avoidant personality disorder is one of a group of conditions called anxious personality disorders, which are marked by feelings of nervousness and fear. People with avoidant personality disorder have poor self-esteem. They also have an intense fear of rejection and being negatively judged by others. These feelings make them very uncomfortable in social situations, leading them to avoid group activities and contact with others.
CAUSE OF AVOIDANT PERSONALITY DISORDER
The exact cause of avoidant personality disorder is not known. However, it is believed that both genetics and environment play a role. The fact that avoidant personality disorder occurs more often in certain families suggests that a tendency to develop the disorder might be passed on in families through their genes. The disorder itself is likely triggered by environmental influences such as parental or peer rejection, which can impact a person’s self-esteem and sense of worth.
For people with this disorder, the fear of rejection is so strong that they choose isolation rather than risk being rejected in a relationship. The pattern of behavior in people with this disorder can vary from mild to extreme.
In addition to their fear of humiliation and rejection, other common traits of people with this disorder include the following:
They are very sensitive and easily hurt by criticism or disapproval.
They have few, if any, close friends and are reluctant to become involved with others unless certain of being liked.
They experience extreme anxiety (nervousness) and fear in social settings and in relationships, leading them to avoid activities or jobs that involve being with others.
They tend to be shy, awkward, and self-conscious in social situations due to a fear of doing something wrong or being embarrassed.
They tend to exaggerate potential problems.
They seldom try anything new or take chances.
They have a poor self-image, seeing themselves as inadequate and unappealing.
Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for avoidant personality. Psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are two specific types of therapy often used to treat this condition.
Treating avoidant personality can be difficult, as the condition is a pervasive and enduring one. However, individuals with avoidant personalities often genuinely want close relationships. This desire can increase their motivation to seek out and follow treatment plans. Research on treatment for social anxiety and avoidant personality even found that treatment outcomes between those with both conditions and those with only social anxiety were relatively the same.
Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for avoidant personality. Psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are two specific types of therapy often used to treat this condition. Psychodynamic therapy, which involves exploring unconscious factors behind feelings of inferiority, can help people resolve past conflicts that may be causing current issues. The focus of CBT, on the other hand, is the identification and modification of problematic beliefs and behaviors.
Social skills training has also been found to be an effective method for helping individuals reduce the effects of AVPD on their life. Additionally, schema therapy, in which an individual is guided through the process of identifying maladaptive thought patterns and frameworks, or schemas, and changing them, has been shown to be helpful