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Avoidant Personality Disorder

People with avoidant personality disorder are very uncomfortable and inhibited in sociaavoidantl situations, overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, and extremely sensitive to negative evaluation

  • They believe themselves unappealing or inferior and often have few close friends

The disorder is similar to social anxiety disorder, and many people with one disorder experience the other

  • Similarities between the two disorders include a fear of humiliation and low self-confidence
  • A key difference is that people with social anxiety disorder mainly fear social circumstances, while people with avoidant personality disorder tend to fear close social relationships
  • As many as 1% and 2% of adults have avoidant personality disorder, men as frequently as women

How Do Theorists Explain Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Theorists often assume that avoidant personality disorder has the same causes as anxiety disorders, including:

  • Early trauma
  • Conditioned fears
  • Upsetting beliefs
  • Biochemical abnormalities
  • Research has not directly tied the personality disorder to the anxiety disorders

Psychodynamic theorists focus mainly on the general sense of shame felt by people with avoidant personality disorder

  • Some trace the shame back to early toileting experiences

Treatments for Avoidant Personality Disorder

  • People with avoidant personality disorder come to therapy seeking acceptance and affection
  • Keeping them in therapy can be challenging because they soon begin to avoid sessions
  • A key task of the therapist is to gain the individual’s trust
  • Beyond building trust, therapists tend to treat the disorder as they treat social phobia and anxiety
  • These treatments have had modest success
  • Group therapy formats, especially those that follow cognitive-behavioral principles, also help by providing practice in social interactions
  • Antianxiety and antidepressant drugs are also sometimes useful

References:
Bernstein, D.A. & Nash, P.W. (2008). Essentials of psychology (4th ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Comer, R.J. (2013). Abnormal Psychology (8th ed).  Worth Publishers
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5) American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013
Feldman, R. (2013). Essentials of understanding psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2012), Personality: classic theories and modern research (5th ed). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
McGraw-Hill.McGraw Hill Higher Education (2013), The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.
Ryckman, R. M. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Sue,Sue, and Sue (2014).  Understanding Abnormal Behavior (10th Ed), Cengage Learning

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