Avoidant personality disorder (APD) is a condition that causes you to avoid people because you fear being embarrassed and rejected.
What is the cause?
The exact cause of this disorder is not known. Possible causes include:
The brain makes chemicals that affect thoughts, emotions, and actions. Without the right balance of these chemicals, there may be problems with the way you think, feel, or act. People with this disorder may have too little or too much of some of these chemicals.
Stress plays a part. You may be at higher risk due to problems such as abuse, financial stresses, or the death of loved ones.
Problems in your family when you were growing up may increase your risk. If you were criticized when you expressed emotions as a child, you may try to avoid being hurt by keeping your feelings to yourself. You might have learned to avoid other people to avoid feeling bad.
APD usually starts in early adulthood. Both women and men may have this disorder.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
Avoiding jobs where you would be around a lot of people
Not sharing feelings or letting people get to know you
Worrying all the time that you will be criticized or rejected
Seeing yourself as unattractive or not as good as other people
Not taking risks or trying new activities because you do not want to be embarrassed
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider or a mental health therapist will ask about your symptoms and any drug or alcohol use. He or she may also:
Ask about your relationships with family, friends, and coworkers
Give you a personality test
Make sure medicines are not causing or increasing your symptoms
You may have lab tests to rule out medical problems.
How is it treated?
This disorder changes the way you relate to others and the way you think about everyday activities. Several types of therapy may help.
Behavior therapy helps you recognize that the way you act affects others. This can help you change problem behaviors.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a way to help you identify and change views you have of yourself, the world, and the future. CBT can make you aware of unhealthy ways of thinking. It can also help you learn new thought and behavior patterns.
Supportive therapy gives encouragement (“you can do it”), positive feedback (“you are good enough”), and reassurance (“you can handle it”).
Medicine may help relieve depression or anxiety. Your healthcare provider will work with you to select the best medicine.
How can I take care of myself?
Get support. Talk with family and friends. Consider joining a support group in your area.
Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, try to quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take.
Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or harming others.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-11-11 Last reviewed: 2014-11-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.