1. People & Relationships

Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder

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Personality disorders reflect an enduring pattern of experience and behavior that manifests in a variety of ways. The spouse with Avoidant Personality Disorder may be characterized by being socially inhibited, feeling inadequate and hypersensitive to negative evaluations. They may be so sensitive that they suffer severe anxiety at the thought of saying or doing the wrong thing.

Some are people pleasers who are so concerned about being liked that they avoid social situations unless certain of acceptance or may give and give and give until they have nothing left to give. Someone who fears ridicule, suffers from a fear of not being accepted socially and feels inadequate in intimate relationships can experience a crisis at midlife.

Below are possible manifestations of Avoidant Personality Disorder and an example of each behavior.

  • Needs To Be Well Liked: This person does not become involved with others unless they know they are held in high esteem due to their fear of rejection.

    An example, Jane is a fantastic cook. She takes cooking classes and delivers meals to people in need. The problem, if it doesn’t have something to do with cooking Jane doesn’t become involved. She only puts herself in a position to be around others who praise her and she knows, when it comes to cooking she will always receive praise. Jane spends a lot of time alone…in her kitchen.

  • Not Open to Intimate Relationships: This person fears rejection or ridicule by someone they’ve become romantically involved with. What is the best way to assure you never suffer rejection? Never become involved!

    An example, Frank gives great relationship advice. Everyone goes to Frank when they are having problems with their love life. Only problem is, Frank never seems to be in a relationship. He lives vicariously through his friends and their relationship, which keeps him from having to face the fear of becoming intimately involved himself.

  • Uncomfortable in Social Settings: You will rarely see someone with Avoidant Personality Disorder at the office Christmas Party. If there is a family wedding, they will send a gift but wild horse couldn’t drag them to the wedding. They are so preoccupied with thoughts of what others will think of them, they find it easier to stay at home instead of face their anxiety.

    An example, Kathy lives with her husband in a retirement community. The women in the community gather to play cards and various other activities. They man the voting booths during election time. They do water aerobics at the community pool.

    Kathy criticizes these women, says she “has better things to do with her time.” What Kathy does with her time is sit and watch soap operas, clean house and look down on women she wishes she could be more like. To admit that though, Kathy would have to admit to being fearful and that isn’t somewhere she wants to go.

  • Avoids Work Activities: This person skates by at work to keep from interacting with others. They fear taking on more responsibility at work because they fear failing. They keep a low profile on the job.

    An example, John crunches numbers for a living. That is all he does, he doesn’t seek promotions. He goes to his office, closes his door and works on whatever assignment he has for the day. He could care less if he gets a raise or a promotion as long as he doesn’t have to interact with others or take a chance at failing.

    John eats lunch alone. He doesn’t stand around the water cooler in the mornings talking with other employees. He never goes out after work for a beer with his peers. He plays it safe because as long as he is playing it safe he doesn’t have to worry about others possibly disapproving of something he says or does.

  • Avoids Conflict at all Cost: What happens when you engage in conflict with others? You may have to hear criticism, you may have a thought or an idea rejected. Conflict is uncomfortable for the person with Avoidant Personality Disorder, they will either avoid all situations where conflict is possible or they will bend over backwards to make others happy to keep down conflict.

    An example, Justin did EVERYTHING his wife requested of him. He was fearful she would find fault with him so he was at her disposal and in his mind it was “her way or the highway.

    Justin resented the fact that his wife didn’t realize that he didn’t want to do EVERYTHING. In his mind, she should be able to read his mind. To know without any input from him what made him happy and what didn’t. He was afraid to express his needs and angry with her because she couldn’t guess his needs.

    Justin is a pretender. For the sake of keeping down his level of anxiety he will pretend to love and want the same things he wife does. The only problem, Justin is setting himself, his wife and his marriage up for failure. Often someone like Justin will walk away after 25 years of marriage pointing his finger at his wife and accusing her of being a control freak.

People with Avoidant Personality Disorder suffer from poor self-esteem and other issues surrounding intimate relationships, work related activities and social interactions. If you see yourself or your spouse in the description above I urge you to seek therapy so that you can learn to become more assertive in getting what you need and want from life.

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This article has been reviewed by the About.com Medical Review Board and the content is medically accurate.

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