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Avoidant Personality Disorder - What It Is

Ruy Miranda
social anxiety disorder diagnosis Social Anxiety Shyness Info


Avoidant Personality Disorder: A Defense Against the Social Anxiety Attacks


In Avoidant Personality Disorder, the person maintains a systematic avoidance of social contacts and any situation which might result in embarrassment or anxiety. Even with people who are close, he or she avoids a more intimate involvement.

The permanent expectations of being ridiculed, criticized, rejected puts the person constantly at the borderline of suffering anxiety attacks. Then he develops a permanent scheme of self-protection against anxiety.

Some signs and symptoms are found in these people. Sometimes the symptoms predominate and the disorder goes unnoticed by the majority of people with whom the bearer has contact (because symptoms are subjectives).

– They tend to live alone
– Contact with family and friends can be enjoyable, but only for a short period of time (minute or hours) and anxiety can be aroused at any moment.
– They avoid contact with strangers. They are extremely kind when such contact occurs and they do everything possible to make sure that such contact is brief.
– They develop at least one phobia (for animals or objects) whose origin is connected with the earlier appearance of anxiety attacks in social situations. The animal or object connected with such situations unleashes the anxiety and this assumes phobic characteristics.
– They are aware that they have abdicated certain experiences in life in order to avoid suffering.
– They often fantasize about the situations they avoid and yet would like to experience – in their fantasies they exclude the anxiety-provoking stimuli.
– They can be professionally successful, but they could be even more successful if they did not turn their backs on opportunities.


What is the difference between Avoidant Personality Disorder, Shyness, Social Anxiety, Generalized Social Phobia and Introverted Personality?


Shyness – As I see it, the difference is that in Shyness the person still tries to face situations which generate fear, even if only to show others what she is capable of getting. The situation may be uncomfortable yet the person tries to convey the message to those around him that he is liking or enjoying it. The desire to integrate oneself is so intense that the anxiety takes a back seat. Above all, the person has to show that she can get the same things other people can and enjoy them as much as they do.

Social Anxiety – In Social Anxiety, the person avoids social contacts and performance, mainly those that unleash extreme anxiety like panic attacks, but he wants to have such contacts and preserves the potentialities of affective involvement and feels comfortable with people who are close.

Generalized Social Phobia – In Generalized Social Phobia, a.k.a. Generalized Social Anxiety, the person suffers anxiety attacks due to exposure to many social situations. There is avoidance, to protect oneself, but the person wants to live like the others and have the same opportunities.

Avoidant Personality Disorder – In Avoidant Personality Disorder, besides the behaviors and attitudes described, we can see that the person has given up altogether on facing situations that generate fear and does not undergo anxiety attacks simply because she avoids any anxiety-generating situation that is possible. Additionally, she does everything possible not to be noticed.

Introverted Personality - Avoidance Personality Disorder has external similarities to the Introverted Personality. Nevertheless, within people there are differences. The main one is that the person with introverted personality does not feel anxiety when it is necessary to maintain social contact.


In my clinical observation, Avoidant Personality Disorder is preceded by anxiety attacks and even some panic attacks, which become occasional atacks or even stop due to the avoidance mechanisms that are developed.


Treatment


The indicated treatment is psychotherapy. However, difficulties often arise, such as:

* lack of motivation to change, so that the person will usually not seek help;
* involvement is very slow in coming, because the self-protection mechanisms are well structured;
* resistance to proposals to practice acts that may speed up the process;
* the person easily gives up the treatment.


Among those cases, which may go around in psychotherapeutic circles for years and years or go from one therapist to another without any progress, are those of avoidance personality disorder.


October, 2004.


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This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles contained on this web site are not solicitations, are not medical advice and are not intended as medical advice. This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles are intended to provide only general, non-specific medical information and are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topics discussed. This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles do not create any physician-client relationship between Ruy Miranda and you, and they do not replace the eventual relationship between you and your physician, psychologist, or other healthcare professional. This article’s author recommends no particular medication and does not represent the interests of any person, company or pharmaceutical laboratory.


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You may want to read other articles on Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia and Shyness:

Basic Articles:

Self-Concept/Self- Actualization – Shyness Nucleus

Self-concept, Body Image, Self-depreciation and Shyness

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder: Neurophysiological Approach

Shyness Articles:

What Is Shyness? Fear, Anxiety, Anguish?

Questions and Answers on Shyness

Humiliation Stories, School Spankings: Examples of Shyness Causes

Social Anxiety Disorder Articles:

Social Anxiety Disorder: What It Is, The Anxiety Attack Symptoms

Social Anxiety Attacks: Incidence, Onset, History, Evolution

Social Phobia / Anxiety Disorder: Treatment

Social Phobia / Anxiety Disorder: Differential Diagnosis

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Medications in Social Phobia: Side Effects - Part 1

Antidepressants Tricyclics: Side Effects - Part 2

Metabolic Pathways Individual Differences and Medications Side Effects - Part 3

Genetic Changes: Medications Side Effects - Part 4

First Line Antidepressants - Side Effects - Part 5

Social Anxiety and Shyness Articles:

Panic Disorder, Shyness, Social Phobia - Differences

Why Self-Help in Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia Doesn’t Help You

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder:Medication Action

Facial Blushing, Redness of the Face, Ears and Neck

Psychoses, Shyness and Social Phobia


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