Understanding Avoidant Personality Disorder


By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) pretty much sums up the disorder in one name.  In nearly every environment of family, work, or community involvement, APDs avoid social interaction.  Think of a recluse, hermit, outsider, lone wolf, or loner who likes being that way and in fact prefers to live that way and that is your APD.

 

Here is the technical DSM-V definition:

·      Identity:  Low self-esteem, excessive feelings of shame or inadequacy

·      Self-direction:  Reluctance to pursue goals or take risks

·      Empathy:  Preoccupation with criticism or rejection

·      Intimacy:  Reluctance to get involved with people unless certain of being liked

·      Withdrawal:  Avoidance of social activity or contact

·      Intimacy avoidance:  Avoidance of close or romantic relationship and sexual relationships

·      Anhedonia:  Lack of enjoyment from life’s experiences or unable to take pleasure in things

·      Anxiousness:  Intense feelings of nervousness or panic often in reaction to social situations

The practical definition looks more like this:

·      Hypersensitive to rejection

·      Prefers social isolation

·      Extreme shyness 

·      Avoids physical contact

·      Self-loathing

·      Mistrusts others

·      Distance in intimacy

·      Self-critical about their problems

·      Problems in occupational functioning

Do you remember reading “Catcher in the Rye” written in 1952 by J.D. Salinger?  It was one of those readings that some schools required and other schools banned the book because it was believed to instigate teenage rebellion.  Well, the book sold over 65 million copies but J.D. Salinger disappeared.  Most authors would love such recognition but he hid and died in 2010.  J.D. Salinger is an example of a APD and his story is being told in a new movie due to come out in 2015.

So how do you deal with a person who might have APD?  Here are a few suggestions:

·      Be careful, they shut down easily and become self-loathing.

·      Find an area of common interest to establish a bond of reassurance.

·      Don’t minimize their feelings or self-doubt.

·      Don’t try to make it better by saying something, listening is the most effective.

·      They don’t like conflict, so make the environment as non-confrontational as possible.

·      Make sure you hear all of what they are saying as they frequently don’t say all of what they mean.

·      Many times they will think they have said something when they have not.

·      They are awkward in social settings so expect it.

·      They already know they are different so don’t bother telling them.

APDs have a tendency to believe that they are more intimate with a person than what might actually be the case.  If you are married to an APD or have a friend who is one, be very careful as they tend to take offense easily and truly see their relationship as having more meaning than it might actually have.  Get some help from a specialist to improve the quality and your understanding of your relationship.

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