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Avoidant Personality Disorder Versus Social Anxiety Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder Versus Social Anxiety Disorder

Character or personality is a basic inherent part of our self-image. It is influenced by our genes which we inherit from our family, environmental, social, and interpersonal influences, and are shaped by our coping strategies to our environment. The behavior disorders are classified from mild or borderline to severe ones, which can lead to psychopathic tendencies. 

Avoidant Personality Disorder 

Avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) is a cluster C personality disorder characterized by behavior related to social inhibition, poor self-esteem, and image. These people are hyper-reactive to rejection and may preemptively reject relationships because of fear of being rejected. It occurs in about 2.5% of the population. 

What Are The Features Of Avoidant Personality Disorder

An avoidant personality disorder may occur alone or in combination with other psychiatric disorders. Features of avoidant personality disorders include

  1. Fear of being rejected 
  2. Extreme shyness 
  3. Conflict avoidance 
  4. People pleasers 
  5. Inability to decide 
  6. Holding back in relationships because of rejection 
  7. Easily hurt 
  8. Distrust of others 
  9. Self-isolation 
  10. Misinterpreting social signs 
  11. Anxiety about being ridiculed or saying the wrong things 
  12. Inadequacy and social inhibition 
  13. Avoiding sharing intimate feelings 

How To Diagnose Avoidant Personality Disorder

An avoidant personality disorder is diagnosed by using the DSM5 criteria. It is diagnosed when any of the four criteria are met. 

  1. Setback in a career or job that deals with emotional intelligence because of paranoia about being disapproved, rejected, or criticized. 
  2. Avoiding meeting people unless sure of a welcoming reception from them 3. Impaired and restrained intimate relationships because of feelings of inadequacy or fear of being ridiculed. 
  3. Overwhelming preoccupation with social criticism or rejection 
  4. Inadequacy resulting in avoidance of new interpersonal situations 
  5. Feelings of social ineptness or inferiority complexes 
  6. Extreme reluctance to start any new activity or take any risks because of fear of embarrassment

Causes Of Avoidant Personality Disorder 

Emotional or physical abuse, lack of love or attention in the formative years, genetics, and social and environmental stimuli play a significant role in shaping one’s personality. 

Social anxiety disorder 

It shares many characteristics with avoidant personality disorder and is a milder form of the disorder. Unlike avoidant personality disorder, which is present in 2.5% of the population, social anxiety disorder is the third most common mental health disorder after depression and substance use disorder. It is also known as social phobia. 

Social phobia is an anxiety disorder and encompasses extreme duress akin to a panic attack in social conditions, including public speaking, using a restroom, eating with other people, or interacting with strangers. 

Similarities with avoidant personality disorder

Like avoidant personality disorder, people with social phobia fear being ridiculed or embarrassed in social situations. They start sweating, have palpitations, and may feel nauseous, resulting in a vicious cascade of further anxiety, and this results in negative reinforcement and avoidance of situations that cause anxiety. Like avoidant personalities, these people also shy away from social situations, meeting new people, and taking extreme measures to avoid such situations. 

Like avoidant personality disorders, people with social phobia or social anxiety disorder may also have a childhood history of being ignored, ridiculed, or humiliated which has now shaped their personality. 

How To Diagnose Social Anxiety Disorder 

Social anxiety becomes a disorder when it impairs one’s functionality and causes significant distress and impact on a person’s life. It is diagnosed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM5) criteria for social phobia. It includes the following: 

  1. Fear of meeting new peers 
  2. Fear of talking to people in positions of authority 
  3. Avoiding hanging out with a group of people their own age 
  4. Fear of going into a room full of people 
  5. Apprehension of talking to strangers 
  6. Fear of dating someone 
  7. Fear of being the center of attention, like being asked a question in a class or having performance anxiety 
  8. The social situations are avoided or attended to with extreme distress 9. Acknowledgment and insight into the problem
  9. Fear or anxiety can last for even six months after an event 
  10. The fear is out of proportion to the actual problem or threat 
  11. Young children may become clingy, cry excessively, or throw tantrums These people may be well prepared and still fail interviews because of their extreme anxiety and distress. 

Correlation With Other Disorders 

It often overlaps with other disorders like panic disorder, sleeping disorder substance use disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and specific phobias. This also leads to depression and further enhances feelings of inadequacy. 

Effective management strategies for social anxiety and avoidance personality disorders

These people need skilled help from professionals. It is unlikely that they will improve spontaneously without any intervention or demonstrate any change in relationships or behavior without help from experts. Some of the management strategies include the following: 

Social treatment 

These include the following

  1. Day hospitals
  2. Halfway houses
  3. Self-help communities

These techniques employ peer relationships in the community to enforce positive learning behavior. 

Behavioral Treatment 

Some of the important techniques used by our highly skilled therapists include 1. Operant conditioning 

  1. Aversive conditioning
  2. computer-based cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)

All of these therapies have evidence-based efficacy. They use the reward and loss of privilege system to modify behavior and make patients relearn new coping strategies. 


These form the backbone of the management of social phobias and avoidant personality disorders. These include: 

  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  2. Interpersonal therapy
  3. Computer-based cognitive behavior therapy
  4. Attention Bias Modification Training

This training program is computer-based in which the person is trained to induce an attentional bias away from potential threats. It is used in patients who fail cognitive-behavioral therapy. Our highly trained psychologists are well-equipped to handle negative countertransference feelings and avoid premature confrontations and interpretations. 


The use of medications is justified in patients who have coexisting panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or severe depression. Medications that may be used include benzodiazepines and selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors. 

Coping Strategies 

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of your disorder is the first step in improving the quality of your life. Please involve your family and friends and share your worries and thoughts. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with social phobia or avoidant personality disorder, please do not hesitate to contact us for more information. Please remember that it is important to seek help for avoidant personality disorder symptoms or social phobia. Without management by skilled professional experts, symptoms are unlikely to improve and will continue to have a negative impact on relationships. Please remember we are available round the clock and are just a click or phone call away. Please call us to get the chance to live your life to the fullest.

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