Avoidant personality disorder
DefinitionAvoidant personality disorder is a mental health condition in which a person has a lifelong pattern of feeling very shy, inadequate, and sensitive to rejection.
Alternative NamesPersonality disorder - avoidant
Causes, incidence, and risk factorsCause of avoidant personality disorder is unknown. Genes or a physical illness that changed the person's appearance may play a role. About 1% of the population has avoidant personality disorder.
SymptomsPeople with this disorder cannot stop thinking about their own shortcomings. They form relationships with other people only if they believe they will not be rejected. Loss and rejection are so painful that these people choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others.A person with avoidant personality disorder may:Be easily hurt when people criticize or disapprove of themHold back too much inintimate relationshipsBe reluctant to become involved with peopleAvoid activities or jobs that involve contact with othersBe shy in social situations out of fear of doing something wrongMake potential difficulties seem worse than they areHold the view they are not good socially, not as good as other people, or unappealing
Signs and testsAvoidant personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation that assesses the history and severity of the symptoms.
TreatmentTalk therapy is considered to be the most effective treatment for this condition. It helps persons with this disorder be less sensitive to rejection. Antidepressant drugs may be used in addition.
Expectations (prognosis)People with this disorder may develop some ability to relate to others. With treatment this can be improved.
ComplicationsWithout treatment, a person with avoidant personality disorder may lead a life of near or total isolation. They may go on to develop a second mental health disorder such as substance abuse or a mood disorder such as depression.
Calling your health care providerSee your health care provider or a mental health professional if shyness or fear of rejection overwhelms your ability to function in life and have relationships.
ReferencesBlais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008;chap 39.