WHAT IS AVOIDANT PERSONALITY DISORDER?

Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) affects around 2.5% of the general population. Just using simple mental arithmetic, that's around...let me think......2.5%.....carry the 1.....take away the number you first thought of....well, it's a lot of people! Avoidant Personality Disorder is sometimes referred to as Anxious Personality Disorder.

Many people reading this will, to some degree, care about what other people think of them. Especially that guy at work, he's the worst!. Most of you, might be a little concerned about it, but it won't fundamentally affect your life, other than giving him a sly dirty look when you pass him in the office corridor. Some won't give a toss at all, and good for them!

For those diagnosed with Avoidant Personality Disorder, what people think of them and how that makes them feel will be much more serious. They will have long-standing, very intense feelings of inadequacy and will be incredibly sensitive to what other people think of them or being judged. These feelings will be so strong that it can lead to them withdrawing from society almost totally. That can mean no chance of college, university, work or any activities where they may have to interact with other people. Imagine how awful that must be.

Even when they do meet people, those living with APD will be so worried about how they are portraying themselves, they will appear scared, tense, very nervous and self-conscious to others. This behaviour, in their minds, just confirms the self-doubt they have for themselves. They'll see how their behaviour makes others feel, or the reactions it will elicit and they can become even more shy, timid, lonely and isolated. The need we all have for affection is mitigated by their over-riding fear of rejection.

THE SYMPTOMS

Avoidant Personality Disorder has a number of symptoms that begin to emerge during the late-teenage years and into the early 20s. APD is a long-standing condition so symptoms can last for many years. They can include:

  • Avoiding contact with other people through fear of criticism, rejection or disapproval.
  • Unwilling to become involved with other people, unless positive acceptance is 'guaranteed'.
  • In intimate relationships, people with ADP will often be restrained through fear of shame or rejection.
  • Consider themselves to be socially inept or inferior to other people.
  • Become preoccupied with being criticised or rejected in social situations.
  • Taking no risks when engaged in activities because they'll feel embarrassed if they fail.

WHAT CAUSES AVOIDANT PERSONALITY DISORDER?

Like many personality disorders, the cause of Avoidant Personality Disorder isn't clear. Most experts tend to agree that it's is caused by a mixture of biological, social and psychological factors. These can include how you were raised as a child and how your development was managed in relation to socialising with other children, including family and friends. Obviously, your own personality and temperament can also play a part.

APD is generally diagnosed in adults in their late teens, 20s and early 30s, rather than children. Before we 'officially' become adults, our personalities are still developing, so it's hard to be able to identify any personality disorders in people who are still maturing and finding their feet psychologically.

It's not impossible for it to be diagnosed in children, but they will have had to have shown symptoms for at least 12 months. Whilst it's a serious problem for those living with it, as they reach middle-age, the symptoms in those with APD tend to decrease in their intensity.

WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?

APD can be helped, usually by a mixture of medication and psychotherapy. Because of the condition, it's difficult for many people living with it to commit to long-term therapy sessions, but shorter-term counselling can still be effective. It will usually involve teaching some coping strategies to lessen the impact it has on your life.


If you live with APD, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.

Also, if you'd like to share your experiences of living with APD with our community so they can better understand how it feels, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.