Avoidant personality disorder, which affects about 1 to 2% of the American population, is a psychiatric condition in which a person has a lifelong pattern of feeling extremely shy, inadequate, and sensitive to rejection. It's completely normal to occasionally feel nervous or inadequate in social situations. But for people with Avoidant Personality Disorder, or AvPD, feelings of EXTREME shyness are a DAILY occurrence. People with avoidant personality disorder tend to be preoccupied with their own shortcomings. They form relationships with others ONLY if they believe they will not be rejected. Loss and rejection are SO painful that these people will choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others. They tend to feel that they are socially inept, unappealing, and inferior to others. Because of these social inhibitions, individuals with AvPD often avoid activities that involve significant contact with people. Generally, they prefer the loneliness of isolation to the possible rejection or pain of social relationships. In extreme situations, people with Avoidant Personality Disorder ALSO develop agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a phobia that revolves around a fear of being in public places, or in crowds. It can also extend to include fear of social situations in general. Although people with AvPD are generally reluctant to engage in relationships, they may do so if they feel almost certain they won't be rejected. But even within these shaky relationships, AvPD sufferers tend to show exaggerated restraint and inhibition. This personality disorder is equally divided between males and females. The cause is unknown. But often, adults with Avoidant Personality Disorder experienced repeated parental rejection and criticism as children. They may ALSO struggle with disfiguring illnesses or circumstances, which make social situations more intimidating. Without treatment, a person with avoidant personality disorder may become resigned to a life of near or total isolation. They may go on to develop a second psychiatric disorder such as substance abuse or a mood disorder such as depression. The GOOD news about this condition is that people who have it usually DESIRE to develop close, healthy relationships. That means that talk therapy can be very helpful for treating the symptoms of AvPD. In particular, success has been shown with cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT combines behavioral therapy, like repeat exposure to social situations with cognitive therapy, such as discussing the underlying source of social inadequacy. Occasionally, anti-depressant medications can ALSO be used to help reduce sensitivity to rejection. The prognosis for people with Avoidant Personality Disorder is very good, so if you believe you're affected by the condition, please make an appointment to see a doctor.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012