Mental Health

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Avoidant personality disorder is feeling extremely shy, inadequate and sensitive to negative criticism and rejection. This involves more than being shy or socially awkward. Avoidant personality disorder causes notable problems that affect the ability to interact with others and maintain relationships.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Behaviors

avoidance personality disorder

Avoiding Work and Social Activities

People with this disorder feel as if they are un-welcome in social situations, even when that is not the case. This is because people with avoidant personality disorder have a low approach for criticism and often imagine themselves to be lesser to others.

When in social situations, a person with avoidant personality disorder may be afraid to speak up for fear of saying the wrong thing, blushing, stammering, or otherwise getting embarrassed.

Low self-esteem


Comments by others about their shyness or nervousness in social settings may feel like criticism or rejection. This is especially true if they are teased, even in a good way, about your avoidance of social situations.

Hesitant to seek out friendships, unless they are certain that the other person will like them. When involved in a relationship, they may be afraid to share personal information or talk about their feelings. This can make it difficult to maintain intimate relationships or close friendships.

Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder

A person with avoidant personality disorder shows the following:

Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval or rejection.

Is unwilling to get involved with people. Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed.

Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy. Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing.

People with AVPD might also refuse a promotion, make excuses to miss meetings, or be too fearful to engage in events where they might make friends.

What Causes Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Early childhood experiences may be linked to the development of AVPD. Children who see their caregivers as lacking in affection, encouragement and rejection from them may be at increased risk. So are children who experience abuse, neglect, and an overall lower level of care. In response to these experiences, children may avoid socializing with others as a coping strategy.

Avoidant behavior may commonly be seen in children or adolescents, but a diagnosis of a personality disorder cannot be made in childhood because shyness, fear of strangers, social awkwardness, or being sensitive to criticism are often a normal part of child and adolescent development.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatments

A mental health professional can assess your symptoms, make an accurate diagnosis and suggest the appropriate treatment options. The treatments of avoidant personality disorder vary, but they will likely include talk therapy. If a coexisting condition, such as depression or anxiety disorder, is also diagnosed, appropriate medications may also be used.

If you struggle with how to not be socially awkward and think you might have avoidant personality disorder, it’s important to not be discouraged. Help is available, and you can reach out to your doctor or another mental health professional who can conduct an evaluation and assess your condition.

No one enjoys criticism, rejection, or embarrassment, but sometimes people spend their entire life avoiding people with AVPD which is very wrong.