What is avoidant personality disorder?

Avoidant personality disorder is one of a group of conditions called anxious personality disorders, which are marked by feelings of nervousness and fear. People with avoidant personality disorder have poor self-esteem. They also have an intense fear of rejection and being negatively judged by others. These feelings make them very uncomfortable in social situations, leading them to avoid group activities and contact with others.

How common is avoidant personality disorder?

It is estimated that about 2.5 percent of the population has avoidant personality disorder. It appears to affect men and women equally. It generally begins in infancy and childhood and continues into adulthood. As with most personality disorders, avoidant personality disorder usually is not diagnosed in people younger than 18 years of age.

What causes avoidant personality disorder?

The exact cause of avoidant personality disorder is not known. However, it is believed that both genetics and environment play a role. The fact that avoidant personality disorder occurs more often in certain families suggests that a tendency to develop the disorder might be passed on in families through their genes. The disorder itself is likely triggered by environmental influences such as parental or peer rejection, which can impact a person’s self-esteem and sense of worth.

What are the symptoms of avoidant personality disorder?

For people with this disorder, the fear of rejection is so strong that they choose isolation rather than risk being rejected in a relationship. The pattern of behavior in people with this disorder can vary from mild to extreme. In addition to their fear of humiliation and rejection, other common traits of people with this disorder include the following:

  • They are oversensitive and easily hurt by criticism or disapproval.
  • They have no close friends and are reluctant to become involved with others.
  • They experience extreme anxiety (nervousness) and fear in social settings and in relationships, leading them to avoid activities or jobs that involve being with others.
  • They tend to be shy, awkward, and self-conscious in social situations due to a fear of doing something wrong or being embarrassed.
  • They tend to exaggerate potential problems.
  • They seldom try anything new or take chances.
  • They have a poor self-image, seeing themselves as inadequate and unappealing.

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