Welcome to day 16 in the 31-day writing challenge on mental health. I am still tired and a lot is on my mind today. Still, I am resuming my writing on personality disorders today. After we’ve discussed the cluster B personality disorders (well, all except for borderline personality disorder, since I’ve discussed that a lot before), it’s now time to move on to cluster C. (I will discuss the personality disorders in cluster A after I write about psychosis and schzophrenia later this month.) People with cluster C personality disorders are predominately anxious or fearful. The most well-known personality disorder in this cluster, which I’ll discuss today, is avoidant personality disorder.
Avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) referst o a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy and hypersensitivity to criticism. People with AvPD meet four or more of the followign criteria:
- Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.
- Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked.
- Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed.
- Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations.
- Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy.
- Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others.
- Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing.
Individuals with avoidant personality disorder avoid work, school or other activities that might lead them to be embarrassed or criticized. As a result, they often live an isolated life. When they do engage in social interacitons, they are often hypervigilant to the actions of others. This may in turn elicit criticism or ridicule, which then worsens the AvPD sufferer’s hypervigilance. For clarity’s sake: AvPD sufferers do want to have friends and often feel extremely lonely. The problem is they feel too anxious to attempt to make friends.
Avoidant personality disorder occurs in 2.4% of the population. It commonly co-occurs with social anxiety disorder (social phobia). It is not clear in fact whether social phobia and avoidant personality disorder are distinct conditions or essentially fall on the same spectrum.
Avoidant personality disorder may also co-occur with or be confused with panic disorder with agoraphobia, major depression, or dependent personality disorder, which I’ll discuss later on. It is often confused with autism spectrum disorders. After all, people with AvPD, especially if they already had social phobia when growing up, may have developed social skills problems because of their lack of involvement in social situations.