Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) is a recognised disorder which is characterized by a hypersensitivity to criticism, intense self loathing and a strong desire to isolate themselves. Sufferers believe that they lack social skills, and feel they don’t know or understand “the rules”. Hence, they tend to avoid social situations to avoid the pain of rejection by others.
People in a close relationship with them often feel frustrated by the person’s tendency to pull away from them and avoid other people. They also find it hard to lead an active social life as the sufferer refuses to go to events such as family gathering, work parties and so on. Also, they may feel pressurised to cut themselves off, too, and live in a bubble with the AVPD person. This can be a source of stress for the person and the extended family.
Although people with AVPD will generally display a number of the traits outlined below, each person is unique and different. (Also, most of us display avoidant traits at times but that doesn’t mean we have AVPD).
Symptoms and traits include the following:"always" & "never" statements; blaming; catastrophizing (automatically assuming a “worst case scenario”); circular conversations (endless arguments which repeat the same patterns); "control-me" syndrome (a tendency to form relationships with people who are controlling, narcissistic or antisocial); dependency; depression; emotional blackmail; false accusations; fear of abandonment; hypervigilance; identity disturbance ( a distorted view of oneself); impulsivity; lack of object constancy (the inability to remember that people or objects are consistent and reliable over time – regardless of whether you can see them or not); low self-esteem; mood swings; objectification (treating a person like an object); panic attacks; passive aggressive behaviour; projection (attributing one’s own feelings or traits onto another); self-hatred; "playing the victim" and thought policing (trying to question, control, or unduly influence another person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours.)
A pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
1. Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.
2. Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked.
3. Shows restraint initiating intimate relationships because of the fear of being ashamed, ridiculed, or rejected due to severe low self-worth.
4. Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations.
5. Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy.
6. Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
7. Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing.
A formal diagnosis must be made by a mental health professional.