Avoidant Personality Disorder (A guide)

Avoidant Personality Disorder

In this brief guide, the avoidant personality disorder will be discussed in detail, along with the diagnostic criteria, definition of personality disorders different types of personality disorder and the treatments available for avoidant personality disorder.

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder

The avoidant personality disorder is in the Cluster C of the personality disorders.

In the Avoidant Personality disorder, a person tries to avoid the situations where there are other people involved.

They want to avoid social activities, ad sensitive to criticism. They remain in the fear of being pointed out and shamed.

They feel embarrassed about the slightest events, as well as they try to avoid making relationships and friendships, they feel lonely and dissatisfied with life.

To explain the avoidant personality disorder further, it is necessary to go into the details regarding personality disorders.

What are Personality Disorders

Person with a personality disorder thinks, feels, and behaves differently.

There are several different types of personality disorders clustered into different categories on the basis of their characteristics.

Personality disorder is a persistent pattern of behaving and feeling, which is altered.

Initially in DSM IV, personality disorder used to be diagnosed on Axis-II, but in DSM 5 (2013), the axial system has been changed and now single diagnosis with co-occurring symptoms use to be given.

Avoidant Personality Disorder (A guide)

Symptoms of Personality Disorder

There are a number of different personality disorders, such as the cluster A is categorized as suspicious, delusional, not interested in social interactions or not having social skills to maintain the social relationships, as well as inability to consider the consequences of their actions and lead towards illegal, and risky behaviour.

Similarly, Cluster B is categorized on the basis of dramatic symptoms.

The person experiencing cluster B personality condition will report feelings of emptiness, self-harm incidents or multiple failed suicide attempts, overly impressionistic, having fragile self-esteem, and excessively praising oneself in situations.

Whereas, Cluster C, is categorized on the basis of anxious symptoms. T

hey are sometimes overly clingy to other person, are overly concerned with order, or tries to avoid social situations because of fear of criticism.

Diagnostic Criteria of Personality Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 5 (2013), has given the criteria for the personality disorder diagnosis, the overview of that criteria are given below:

A.     It is the enduring pattern and persistent pattern of behaviour which is not according to the particular culture the person is living.

This disturbing pattern is manifested in either, cognition, affectivity, interpersonal relationships or spontaneity.

B.     This pattern of behaviour is constant over time and prevail in a number of personal or social situations.

C.      The condition is affecting other areas of a person’s functioning such as work, academics, personal life etc.

D.     The pattern of behaviour became more consistent and spans over the course of years, as well as it appeared in teenage or young adulthood.

E.      The condition is not the symptom of any other mental disorder

F.      The condition and symptoms are not because of the impact of drug or substance and medical condition.

Types of Personality Disorder

The personality disorders are clustered into three:

Avoidant Personality Disorder (A guide)

Cluster A: Odd, Eccentric

In this cluster there are three disorders named:

1.      Paranoid Personality Disorder

2.      Schizoid Personality Disorder

3.      Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Cluster B: Dramatic, or Unpredictable

1.      Antisocial Personality Disorder

2.      Borderline Personality Disorder

3.      Histrionic Personality Disorder

4.      Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C: Anxious, or Fearful

1.      Avoidant Personality Disorder

2.      Dependent Personality Disorder

3.      Obsessive Personality Disorder

Now we will go into detail of all the nine disorders in each cluster:

Cluster A

1.     Paranoid Personality Disorder:

In the paranoid personality disorder, it will be difficult for the person to put trust into others, they are always suspicious, and thinks that others are taking advantage of them.

They keep an eye on the actions of others and keenly monitor the signs of mistrust and cheating.

They are quick in reading the danger signs and reacts immediately which are hard for others to notice.

2.     Schizoid Personality Disorder

In the schizoid personality disorder, person losses interest in forming and maintaining relationships with other people, including their own family.

They consider relationships as intervening and prefer freedom. They want to be immersed in their own thoughts and unable to enjoy life.

They are not interested in romantic relationships and feels emotionally aloof of others feelings and emotions.

3.     Schizotypal Personality Disorder

In schizotypal personality disorder, the person experiencing the symptoms will go through a hard time in developing relationships, they are unable to form close relationships.

It is difficult for them to express themselves.

They behave in an odd manner which makes others fearful of themselves, they also feel anxiousness about others who are not able to understand them.

They consider themselves to have extraordinary sense and claim to understand what anyone else is thinking.

Cluster B

Avoidant Personality Disorder (A guide)

1.     Antisocial Personality Disorder

Person with antisocial personality disorder use to be reckless, dangerous and unable to think about the consequences of their actions.

They are dangerous, aggressive and gets easily bored. They have no feeling of guilt or remorse.

They consider whatever they value is an opportunity and they have to avail it, no matter if they are hurting the feelings of others.

For the diagnosis of antisocial disorder, the age must be 18 years or older, as before the age of 18 years these symptoms are diagnosed as conduct disorder if happening before 15 years of age.

2.     Borderline Personality Disorder

They are dramatic and think as other people are leaving them, they have extreme feeling of emptiness, having intense emotions that last for a few days and then vanish.

They have weak self-esteem, as well as it is difficult for them to maintain stable relationships, they are driven by impulses and exercise self-harm or attempt suicide mostly for the purpose to seek attention.

They feel lonely at times and experience extreme anger. Sometimes they also report experiencing the psychotic features.

3.     Histrionic Personality Disorder

People with histrionic personality disorder are overly impressionistic, attention-seeking by their exaggerated dramatized body language, accent, or appearance.

They are selfish and consider themselves before anyone else. They require a lot of admiration and approval from others.

They try to keep everyone entertained and try to remain in the centre.

4.     Narcissistic Personality Disorder

They consider themselves to be superior than others. They consider as they are special and more deserving than the others.

They have fragile self-esteem, as well as depend on others to acknowledge their importance and value.

They are selfish and think about themselves, tries to take benefit from others, and feels sad about the achievements of others.

Cluster C

1.     Avoidant Personality Disorder

In this condition, the person tries to escape social situations and avoid activities where others are involved.

They avoid work, social activities, ad sensitive to criticism. They remain in the fear of being pointed out and shamed.

They feel embarrassed about the slightest events, as well as they try to avoid making relationships and friendships, they feel lonely and dissatisfied with life.

2.     Dependent Personality Disorder

In the dependent personality disorder, a person is overly clingy to any attachment figure.

They feel compelled and requires someone to be attached to. They feel as weak and unable to do anything if deserted.

They have low self-esteem, as well as they believe that others are good at things then they are, they are submissive and passive.

3.     Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

They set unrealistic goals, demand order and control.

They consider their plan of action as perfect and things are required to follow that order, they are reluctant to spend money, and are worried for others if they will make the mistakes.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is different from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, which can be found here.

Diagnostic Criteria of Avoidant Personality Disorder

In DSM 5 the diagnostic criteria of the avoidant personality disorder is given which is:

A.     Avoidant personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of inadequacy, hypersensitivity, and resistance in joining the social activities, and the symptoms appear in early adulthood and requires 4 or more of the following symptoms:

a.      Avoids social activities and interpersonal contact

b.      They are unwilling to be involved with people unless they are required by the person having avoidant personality disorder

c.      They have difficulty in opening up to others even in intimate relationship because of getting embarrassed.

d.      Tries to avoid every criticism and rejection

e.      They experience inadequacy in their interpersonal relationships

f.       Consider themselves as inferior, unappealing and inadequate

g.      To avoid embarrassment, avoid initiating anything new

Causes of Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder (A guide)

There are a number of causes of avoidant personality disorder, but there is no one clear cause of avoidant personality disorder.

The factors contribute to avoidant personality disorders are biological, psychological, physical and socio-cultural.

The biological causes include the genes, heredity, family history, functioning of neurotransmitters and chemical substances.

The psychological causes of personality disorders are childhood trauma, stress, adverse family environment, low self-esteem, child neglect and parental rejection.

Physical causes include brain dysfunction and psychiatric pathology.

The sociocultural causes include divorce, being deserted, deprivation of relationships, assault, abuse death and separation.

Treatment of Avoidant Personality Disorder

There are different forms of treatment for personality disorders.

1.      Psychotherapy

2.      Medication

Psychotherapy:

It is one form of treatment, in this a mental health professional especially a psychologist deal with the client experiencing the personality disorder symptoms.

This is also called ‘talk-therapy’, this usually takes up to three months and sometimes more.

There are different therapies which can be used for avoidant personality disorder.

Dialectic Behaviour Therapy

This is the evidence-based therapy for avoidant personality disorders, especially for the treatment of borderline disorder.

In this treatment approach, the skills to manage one’s emotions, as well as mindfulness is discussed in detail.

Arts Therapy

This type of therapy is useful to uncover the unconscious pattern and understand the person’s emotions, and feelings in a non-threatening environment.

It includes the use of dance, art, drama and music.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

In CBT, the clinician looks for the discrepancy in the thoughts, emotions and behaviour of the person along with the automatic thought patterns.

Schema Therapy

It is a long term talking therapy, which is based on the model of CBT, and goes further deep into the core beliefs and schemas of the person, which influence their thoughts, behaviours and actions.

Medication

There are no specific drugs made for personality disorders, but the combination of drugs for the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychosis are used for particular symptoms.

Avoidant personality disorder lies in the Cluster “c” of the personality disorders.

The diagnostic criteria given in DSM 5 is used for the diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder.

The causes and treatment for personality disorder are discussed briefly as well.

Frequently Asked Questions for Avoidant Personality Disorder

What causes avoidant personality disorder?

The causes of avoidant personality disorder is unknown.

Sometimes it is believed that genetic as well as environmental factors play their role in developing avoidant personality disorder.

What is the best treatment for avoidant personality disorder?

Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for avoidant personality disorder.

Therapy includes Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Dialectic Behaviour therapy and social skill training.

How is avoidant personality disorder different from social anxiety?

Avoidant personality disorder is different from social anxiety is that in avoidant personality disorder person experience extreme inhibition as they seek to avoid rejection, embarrassment, and judgement.

Can avoidant personality disorder curable?

Avoidant personality disorder is like other disorders and difficult to be treated, and unable to be cured.

As the person experiencing the avoidant personality disorder has rigid pattern of behaviour and cannot be altered.

References

WebMD

Cleveland Clinic.org

Recommended Readings

Avoidant Personality Disorder: The Ultimate Guide to Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention (Personality Disorders) 

Trauma and the Avoidant Client: Attachment-Based Strategies for Healing (Norton Professional Books (Hardcover)) 

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents 

The Essential Guide to Overcoming Avoidant Personality Disorder 

The Essential Guide to Overcoming Avoidant Personality Disorder 
The 5 Personality Patterns: Your Guide to Understanding Yourself and Others and Developing Emotional Maturity

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Avoidant Personality Disorder (A guide)

Daniela Paez

Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.