I usually feel tense or nervous. I feel awkward or out of place in social situations. I won’t get involved with people until I’m certain they like me. I worry a lot that people may not like me. A lot of things seem dangerous to me that don’t bother most people. I keep to myself even when there are other people around.
If these realizations have been bothering you, then maybe you have avoidant personality disorder.
The World Health Organization marked three distinctive characteristics of a person with avoidant personality disorder (AVPD). This includes feelings of tension and apprehension, insecurity, and inferiority.
Persons with this psychiatric condition are often associated with having social anxiety and dependent personality disorder. As the name suggests, they have difficulty in socializing with other people because of the fear of getting ridiculed, criticized or put into an embarrassing situation. At the same time, they also desire to form a relationship with another person because of dependency needs.
What is like living with AVPD?
Marie, 20 years old, has been living with her boyfriend Jake for 6 months now but with Marie’s AVPD, Jake is already on the verge of giving up. Jake recounts that its very difficult to understand her at times. “We tried to talk her concerns and issues but she would take it as shaming or rejection. This is getting so tiring already.”
With AVPD, persons tend to focus on a single concern while ignoring priorities. They are pre-occupied with self-loathing and self-victimization issues. They perceive everything that is going on around them are directed to their existence. That’s why they avoid going to parties or large group gathering because they have this constant perception that they are socially inept. Some AVPD individuals have a hard time forming or maintaining a healthy and lasting relationship because of the passive-aggressive behaviors. Their partners need to have longer patience, awareness, and understanding about their condition in order to help them.
If the AVDP person is working, it can be very hard for them to stay on the job. They are easily disappointed and can get into trouble with other employees because of wrongful interpretations of issues, inability to handle stress in the work setting, and even inability to provide productive work.
Cause of AVPD
Just like any mental health condition, personality disorders do not only take one causal factor to make it happen. There is an interplay of several factors that contributed to the development of AVPD. Psychologists and psychiatrists believed that it has something to do with social, environmental land psychological upbringing. These are called trigger factors to a predetermined genetic and biologic individual who is at risk to develop AVPD. When a child is raised in an environment where he or she is constantly humiliated or criticized, there is a big possibility that their personalities can be altered and then constructed to have all the features of AVDP in later life. Statistically, the condition accounts for 2-6% of the general population and is equally present in both genders.
The good news about personality disorders is that they are treatable. In the case of Marie and Jake, they are willing to mend and make things work for them. They are undergoing a series of therapies to help them both go through this. Aside from doing research online about websites that provide therapy services, Marie is also attending an individual therapy session to focus the interventions to herself. The goal of the therapy is to help the person verbalize their concerns about communicating with other people, confront those worries directly, helping them find the right resources or methods to allay their fears, helping them with stress management, and slowly introducing them to the social circle until they become more comfortable with social gatherings and in dealing with criticism.
With regards to medications, they can be given with antidepressants and anxiolytics to help control depression and lower down anxiety levels.
Bottom line is, the earlier the condition is managed the better. The complications of AVPD leans toward substance abuse and addiction in the later stages as the condition continues to paralyze the person in the social dimension.