Avoidant Personality Disorder Symptoms, Diagnosis
Avoidant personality disorder symptoms first appear in childhood, but often don't seem out of the ordinary until late adolescence or early adulthood. Most children show some fear and shyness when confronted with new people and circumstances; and these behaviors do not necessarily mean that they will eventually develop avoidant personality disorder. It's only when these behaviors persist and continue into adulthood that they become troublesome.
Avoidant Personality Disorder Symptoms Profoundly Troublesome
Avoidant personality disorder symptoms and behaviors have a deeply negative impact on the lives of those suffering from the condition (this includes celebrities and famous people with avoidant personality disorder)
Individuals with avoidant personality disorder may the following symptoms:
- Experience excessive emotional pain when others disapprove of them
- Avoid intimate relationships, fearing shame and ridicule
- Have only one or two close friends, if any at all
- Avoid casual interactions and social contact
- Avoid social activities or jobs that involve significant contact with others
- View potential challenges with excessive pessimism
- Exhibit extreme shyness and inhibition in social situations
- Perceive him- or herself as inferior to others, socially inept, and unattractive
- Be preoccupied with fear of criticism and rejection
You may spot an individual with symptoms of avoidant personality disorder in a number of situations. For example, a person you know may go to a work-sponsored party or school dance, but remain in a corner of the room either alone or chatting with one to three people he knows well. If you have seen this individual dance and socialize at other parties, it's probably just an isolated incident. But if you see this scenario occurring over and again in social situations with this person, he may be showing signs of avoidant personality disorder.
Alternatively, imagine a woman you know is always reluctant to attend social activities that you think she would enjoy. The only way you can get her to even consider participating is by offering repeated encouragement and support that reassures them the others there will accept her. Even while at the event, she may misconstrue innocent comments from others as thinly veiled criticism, requiring you to constantly offer up reassurances that they meant nothing negative by what they said. If nothing else, this woman clearly has a severe lack of self-confidence. If this is a pervasive pattern across every aspect of her life, she probably needs to see a mental health professional for an assessment.
Some of the other characteristics of avoidant personality disorder are more difficult to spot because they occur within a person's inner experience. The constant fretting over real and perceived shortcomings and internal planning about how to avoid embarrassment and rejection aren't obvious to others. Certainly, the intense emotional pain a person with avoidant personality endures when he or she experiences real or perceived rejection isn't readily visible. You may notice the person crying or with her head in her hands, but most likely she will grieve over the incident alone.
Diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder
Only a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, can give a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder. The clinician will conduct a comprehensive psychological evaluation to assess the history and severity of symptoms.
He or she will compare symptoms and other findings to the diagnostic criteria for avoidant personality disorder laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM 5). If enough criteria are met, the client will receive a positive diagnosis for the condition.
Once the client receives a definitive diagnosis, the doctor can begin to develop a treatment plan that fits the client's individual needs and help relieve the avoidant personality disorder symptoms.
Last Updated: 20 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD