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Avoidant Personality Disorder Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Extreme social anxiety, low self-esteem, and an irrational fear of rejection or criticism are hallmarks of Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD), a long-term mental health condition. People with AvPD have difficulty making friends and joining group activities. The article delves into the background of APD and its diagnostic and therapeutic options.

What Causes Avoidant Personality Disorder?

It is unclear what triggers avoidant personality disorder, but researchers believe that a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors is at play. AvPD may have a developmental origin in early experiences of emotional neglect, rejection, or criticism. AvPD may also be more common in people who have a history of mental health issues in their family.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Symptoms

Persistent feelings of inadequacy, heightened sensitivity to criticism, avoiding social situations, hesitating to take risks out of fear of rejection, and an overly urgent need for likes and compliments are all hallmarks of avoidant personality disorder. People with AvPD often perceive themselves poorly and struggle with low self-assurance and self-esteem.

  • Social Inhibition: Fear of criticism, rejection, or disapproval causes people to avoid social interactions and activities.
  • Hypersensitivity to Criticism: Oversensitivity to negative evaluation, criticism, or perceived disapproval from others, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
  • Avoidance of Intimate Relationships: Fear of rejection or humiliation keeps people from getting close to others.
  • Fear of Rejection: Constant fear of being disliked, criticized, or rejected leads to extreme caution and reluctance in initiating or maintaining social connections.
  • Self-Imposed Isolation: Avoiding social situations to avoid negative feedback.
  • Low Self-Confidence: Persistent feelings of inferiority, self-doubt, and a negative self-image lead to low self-esteem.
  • Avoiding Risks and New Experiences: Fear of failure, embarrassment, or negative judgment prevents people from trying new things.
  • Preoccupation with Negative Evaluation: Excessive worry and preoccupation with how others perceive them, often assuming they are disliked or ridiculed without evidence.
Persistent feelings of inadequacy, heightened sensitivity to criticism, avoiding social situations, hesitating to take risks out of fear of rejection, and an overly urgent need for likes and compliments are all hallmarks of avoidant personality disorder. People with AvPD often perceive themselves poorly and struggle with low self-assurance and self-esteem.
Persistent feelings of inadequacy, heightened sensitivity to criticism, avoiding social situations, hesitating to take risks out of fear of rejection, and an overly urgent need for likes and compliments are all hallmarks of avoidant personality disorder. People with AvPD often perceive themselves poorly and struggle with low self-assurance and self-esteem.

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Avoidant Personality Disorder Facts


Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) is a mental health condition characterized by a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation. Individuals with AvPD often experience extreme anxiety and fear in social situations, leading to avoidance of interpersonal interactions. The disorder can significantly impact various areas of life, including relationships, work, and self-esteem.

Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder

  • Persistent avoidance of social interactions and activities that involve interpersonal contact
  • Excessive sensitivity to criticism and fear of negative evaluation
  • Reluctance to engage in intimate relationships or friendships
  • Fear of rejection and humiliation
  • Self-imposed isolation and social withdrawal
  • Low self-confidence and negative self-image
  • Avoidance of risks and new experiences
  • Preoccupation with negative evaluation and assumptions of being disliked or ridiculed


A diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder is made by a qualified mental health professional based on a thorough evaluation, including a comprehensive assessment of symptoms, personal history, and the impact on daily functioning. Diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) are used to determine the presence of AvPD.

Treatment Options

  • Psychotherapy: Individual therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy, can effectively address the underlying beliefs, fears, and avoidance patterns associated with AvPD.
  • Medication: In some cases, medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression that commonly coexist with AvPD.
  • Group Therapy: Participating in group therapy or support groups can provide a supportive environment for individuals with AvPD to practice social skills, receive feedback, and connect with others facing similar challenges.
  • Self-help Strategies: Self-help techniques, including self-care practices, stress management, and building healthy coping mechanisms, can complement professional treatment and support overall well-being.

Living with Avoidant Personality Disorder

Living with AvPD can be challenging, but with appropriate treatment and support, individuals can learn to manage symptoms and improve their quality of life.

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Avoidant Personality Disorder Statistics

About 2-5% of people have Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD), and both sexes are equally affected. It usually first appears during the teen years but can last well into adulthood. The diagnosis and treatment of AVPD are complicated by the high prevalence with which it co-occurs with other mental health disorders. The disorder has serious consequences for the individual’s personal and professional relationships, as well as for the individual’s health and happiness.

Due to their avoidance behaviors and worries about being judged, many people with AVPD may hesitate to seek treatment. However, with the right kind of help and treatment, people living with AVPD can see marked improvements in their symptoms and quality of life. Accurate diagnosis and individualized treatment are only possible with expert assistance.


general population affected by Avoidant Personality Disorder

Source: NIMH

Childhood to Teen

Age of Onset

Source: NIMH


AVPD often co-occurs with other mental health disorders, such as social anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and other personality disorders.

Source: NIMH

How is avoidant personality disorder diagnosed?

A mental health professional will usually do a full evaluation to determine if someone has Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD). Most of the time, the diagnostic process includes:

  • Clinical Assessment: The clinician will talk to the person in depth to discover their symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and actions. They will examine the person’s past, relationships, and important life events.
  • Diagnostic Criteria: The clinician will look at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to see if the person meets the diagnostic criteria for AVPD or an avoidant personality disorder test. This means determining if a person has certain symptoms and how they affect their daily life.
  • Differential Diagnosis: The doctor will rule out other possible causes of the symptoms, such as other personality disorders or mood disorders. They will also think about whether the symptoms could be caused by medical conditions or drug use.
  • Collaboration: The clinician may talk to other professionals, like psychiatrists or psychologists, to get more information and ensure a thorough assessment.

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What Triggers Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Any one thing does not cause the development of Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD). It is thought that genetic, environmental, and psychological factors cause it. Some things that could help AVPD grow are the following:

  • Genetic and Biological Factors: AVPD may be caused by genes, which means that people with a family history of the disorder may be more likely to get it. There may also be a link between AVPD, how the brain is built, and how neurotransmitters work.
  • Childhood Events: AVPD can be caused by bad things that happened to a person when they were young, like being abused, ignored, or rejected. Growing up in a place where there isn’t much emotional support, a lot of criticism, or little social interaction may also lead to avoidant behaviors.
  • Social Rejection and Bullying: Rejection, ridicule, or bullying in childhood or adolescence can make a person feel worse about themselves and make them more likely to avoid social situations. These bad social experiences can change a person’s ideas about himself or herself and other people, which can lead to AVPD.
  • People with AVPD often have low self-esteem and a strong fear of criticism or rejection. This fear can come from bad things that have happened in the past or a skewed idea of how other people see them. It can cause people to avoid social and interpersonal situations repeatedly.
  • Other Mental Health Conditions: AVPD is often linked to other mental health problems, like depression and social anxiety disorder. These conditions can interact with avoidant behaviors and worsen them, making it harder to talk to people and ask for help.

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Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatments

The most common ways for treating Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) are psychotherapy, medication, and support. Some common ways to do things are:

  • Psychotherapy is often used to treat AVPD, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people find negative thought patterns and beliefs that lead to avoidance and social anxiety and then challenge them. It also focuses on building social skills, boosting self-esteem, and finding better solutions to problems.
  • Medication: There isn’t a specific drug approved for AVPD, but some drugs, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help with the anxiety and depression that often accompany it. Medication can be used with psychotherapy to improve the results of treatment.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy gives people with AVPD a place to connect with others who are going through similar problems. It allows people to practice their social skills, get feedback, and feel like they belong and are accepted.
  • Social skills training helps people with AVPD develop and improve their interpersonal skills, such as starting and keeping a conversation, being assertive, and resolving conflicts. This can make it easier for them to make and keep healthy relationships.

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  1. How to love someone with avoidant personality disorder?

    Loving someone who suffers from avoidant personality disorder calls for tolerance, compassion, and acceptance. Reassure them, honor their space, push them toward therapy, and create a welcoming, accepting atmosphere.

  2. What causes avoidant personality disorder?

    Avoidant personality disorder is believed to develop from a combination of genetic, environmental, and social factors. Childhood experiences of rejection, criticism, or neglect, as well as a predisposition to anxiety, may contribute to its development. Additionally, a person’s temperament and early attachment patterns can influence the development of avoidant personality traits.

Tips to Cope and Combat Depressive Episodes

Coping with depression can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can use to help manage your symptoms. Exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep can help improve your mood. Talking to a therapist can also be beneficial as they can provide additional resources and help you process your thoughts and feelings. Lastly, knowing what triggers your depressive episodes can help you better prepare for them.

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Search We Level Up WA Mental Health Avoidant Personality Disorder. Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment Topics & Resources
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  3. Lampe L, Malhi GS. Avoidant personality disorder: current insights. Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2018 Mar 8;11:55-66.
  4. Merck Manual Professional Version. Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD). ( Accessed 10/7/2020.
  5. Sadock BJ, et al. Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Science/Clinical Psychiatry. Wolters Kluwer. 2015.