Things You Need To Know About Avoidant personality disorder

Things You Need To Know About Avoidant personality disorder
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 30-03-2023

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An avoidant personality disorder is part of a group called anxious personality disorders. This group is characterized by feelings of nervousness and fear. Avoidant personality disorder tends to make a person low on self-esteem. Such people fear rejection and negative judgments from others. They usually avoid social settings as this feeling of nervousness and rejection makes them uncomfortable. They try to avoid group activities. They would rather stay alone. People with APD have a lifelong pattern of extreme shyness. They tend to feel inadequate. About 2.5 percent of the population has APD. It has not yet been seen to be gender sensitive. It affects both males and females equally. The onset of APD is in childhood itself which continues in adulthood also.


If one has APD, then they may fear one of the following: 

  • Rejection
  • Embarrassment
  • Criticism
  • Forming new relations/meeting new people
  • Disapproval
  • Intimate relationships
  • They have an urge that everyone should like them.
  • People with APD have a poor self-image and thus face difficulty in believing that people might actually like them. They tend to interpret neutral comments as negative only.
  • These people are hypersensitive and easily feel dejected by slight criticism.
  • They avoid mingling with unknown crowds.
  • They are very awkward, self-conscious, and shy in social settings.
  • They face extreme anxiety and fear in social settings which eventually leads to them avoiding them.
  • They rarely try new things or take chances. They try to remain confined to their tried choices. They fear trying anything outside their comfort zones.
  • Such people are often people-pleasers.


The cause of APD is unknown but is believed to be related to genetic, environmental, psychological, and social factors.

Some of the factors that supposedly are the causes:

  • Emotional abuse is considered to lead to APD. Emotional abuse is basically a way of controlling a person using emotions to criticize, blame, or shame a person. This eventually wears down a person’s self-esteem and undermines their mental health.
  • Ridiculing a child, especially in social settings can lead to them suffering from APD wherein they become avoidant of such settings out of the fear of being criticized, ridiculed, or disapproved there.
  • Lack of affection or nurturing by a parent or caregiver in childhood can also lead to the child having this disorder if other factors are also present.
  • Rejection from close ones or peers can also lead to one suffering from Avoidant Personality Disorder.


Like other personality disorders, Avoidant personality disorder can be hard to treat as it is a pattern that is ingrained in one s personality from childhood and the detection or recognition of the same is difficult leading to one not actually knowing and seeking psychotherapeutic help. Usually, people with APD cope with the same through self-isolation. Treatment if successfully applied can help these people increase their range of coping strategies to manage anxiety. They will most probably always be shy but won’t try to resort to self-isolation and avoiding others.

  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy. It enables one to become aware of their unconscious thoughts. It promotes one to build a self-perspective and look upon how their past experiences have influenced their current behavior which can lead them to overcome and resolve past emotional pains and conflicts. This provides the person with a fresh perspective and a positive outlook about themselves and also leads to being accepting of how others see them.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is also a form of talk therapy. The therapist in this method helps one to recognize and replace unhealthy beliefs and thought processes. The therapist in this case encourages one to introspect and test their thought and beliefs for a factual basis if any. They help in building positive and healthier thoughts.
  • Schema therapy builds on Cognitive behavioral therapy as well as many other therapeutic techniques. It is based on a therapeutic relationship between a therapist and the client. The goal is to improve daily functioning and gain insight into change. This insight is based on understanding and re-engineering early life experiences
  • Medication: Currently there are no medications focused on treating APD. Medication can be prescribed for related disorders like depression, and anxiety.
  • Self-care is essential for each and every individual. One must try to find healthy coping skills and prevent oneself from substance abuse or self-harm.
  • Involving friends and family works wonders in such situations. Spending time and involving them in your therapy helps boost self-esteem.

APD can be improved upon with the right help. Approach your friends, family, and eventually a therapist. Try and talk to them and always remember “It always gets better”. Treatment cannot change your personality but it can definitely help in improving the symptoms and help you in developing the ability to relate to others. If anyone around you or your close ones suffers from APD, try and talk to them. Encourage them to seek professional help. And for the ones suffering from APD always remember “It always gets better”. It might be a difficulty in your life but it does not define you completely and there’s always room for improvement.

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  1. Avoidant Personality Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved September 03, 2020, from
  2. Cuncic, A. (n.d.). What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder? Retrieved September 03, 2020, from
  3. Kivi, R. (2017, April 20). Avoidant Personality Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis. Retrieved September 03, 2020, from

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