Hey! May is Mental Illness awareness month, and before that fades away, I kinda wanted to do something on Avoidant Personality Disorder, seeing as I have/had been living with it for a good 6 years of my life. It’s a pretty straightforward personality disorder to understand, but it doesn’t really seem as if it’s gets that much recognition compared to some other personality disorders on here. Not throwing the ones that are getting recognition under the bus, because that’s good! But the more education, the better, as always.
First off, what’s the definition of a Personality Disorder in general?
Mayo Clinic defines Personality Disorders as, “…a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and to people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, work and school.”
DSM-5 says, “Personality disorders are associated with ways of thinking and feeling about oneself and others that
significantly and adversely affect how an individual functions in many aspects of life.”
There are 10 types of defined Personality Disorders as we know it today, which are: paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, schizotypal personality
disorder, antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality, narcissistic
personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive
personality disorder. These 10 disorders are divided into three clusters, which are Cluster A Disorders (The “ood, eccentric” cluster), Cluster B Disorders (The “dramatic, emotional, erratic” cluster), and Cluster C Disorders (The “anxious, fearful cluster).
Nice, okay. What about Avoidant Personality Disorder? What’s the definition here?
AvPD is a personality disorder belonging to the C cluster of disorders. Seven Counties explains AvPD as being, “…characterized by a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and a hypersensitivity to negative evaluation. People with this disorder are intensely afraid that others will ridicule them, reject them, or criticize them. This leads them to avoid social situations and to avoid interactions with others. This further limits their ability to develop social skills. People with Avoidant Personality Disorders often have a very limited social world with a small circle of confidants. Their social life is otherwise rather limited.”
So, tl;dr, AvPD is characterized by feeling inadequate, and being extremely sensitive to criticism. This often leads people with AvPD to avoid situations with other people (i.e. outings with friends, parties, meetings, etc.), and to avoid interacting with other people altogether. Typically, people with AvPD don’t have a large friend group that they feel close to. This is because people with AvPD will usually not socialize with people, unless they are certain that they will be liked.
Diagnostic Criteria in the DSM-5 for AvPD is here. (Make sure you’re looking at the column on the right. The left column is from DSM-4.)
Out of the FOG also has a great, extensive list on AvPD symptoms.
Alright. I can obviously see how this would negatively affect someone. What if I think I might have AvPD? How do I get this to stop?
Well, sadly, AvPD isn’t that well understood. This means that treatment options are limited.
People with AvPD aren’t likely to seek therapy, due to their avoidant tendencies. However, there are therapists that can help. If you have AvPD and you want to start getting better with the help of a therapist, I have two pieces of advice. The first one, is to get someone to remind you to do it, and to hound you about going to your therapist whenever it’s time. The second, is to be truthful, and to try and form some sort of positive bond with your therapist. You may want to lie to get out of therapy, but there’s a reason that you’re there. Stick it through, and I promise it’ll help.
Other than this, prescription of SSRI antidepressants are also shown to help with avoidant tendencies.
I, myself, managed to knock off a good few of those defining symptoms by challenging myself to come out of my shell a little bit more. While avoidant tendencies are still present, no doubt… If I went to get diagnosed, chances are, I wouldn’t meet the exact criteria for diagnosis anymore. Challenging yourself is a good way to start breaking avoidant habits, but it should be noted, don’t force yourself. If you’ll cause more harm to yourself by putting yourself out there, rather than staying as you are, then please stay, and find other means of help.
Well, I’m not avoidant, but my friend(s)/datefriend(s) are. How do I help?
Just give them a nice, care-free, and encouraging environment to thrive in while they’re around you. If you need to criticize them, make sure you compliment what you like plenty afterwards. You’ll notice that people with AvPD don’t open up much about their personal life. As someone who still struggles with some of these symptoms, I promise you that it’s not because they don’t trust you, per se. These immense feeling of inadequacy will keep them from sharing this information, as their mind will spark with a little, “Why does this matter? You shouldn’t tell them this, they won’t care, and they’ll make fun of you for it.” However, it’s likely that they probably want to share all they can about their personal life with you if possible. Give them time to speak their mind, and listen.
It’s worth mentioning that you can never give too many compliments.
Also, be cautious with sending walls of text. Especially stuff that’s agressive, even if it isn’t aimed towards them. They can still project the anger you feel onto themselves, and feel guilty about it and get extremely anxious and stressed. Ask before you rant, and if they say no, go ahead and find somewhere else to rant.
If your friend with AvPD says that they’re coming to a social function you are hosting, but they end up not going, it’s okay to be dissapointed. However, remember that they probably didn’t go due to fear of ridicule, and that’s okay. Don’t hound them incessantly over it, and don’t guilt them about it. Chances are, we already feel guilty enough for not going. You don’t need to remind us.
For the most part, keeping your relationship communicative and healthy is always the best. Make sure you ask about someone’s bounds, and respect them.
The DSM-5 on Google Docs
AvPD Test (Careful, people who suffer from Gender Dysphoria)
Remember, you’re not alone, and you’ll sort this out someday. Just take a deep breath, and go get em.