Avoidant personality disorder vs social anxiety

Individuals struggling with avoidant personality disorder have a persistent and pervasive fear of social situations, a sense of inadequacy, and a sensitivity to negative judgments. Such people are convinced that they are unworthy, inferior and awkward. 

A person with avoidant personality disorder has a great fear of being ridiculed, criticized, or rejected by other people. For this reason, such people avoid social situations and communication with others, but it also means that they cannot develop social skills. This doesn’t mean they don’t want a relationship – they’re just so shy that they don’t dare to create one.

People with avoidant personality disorder often appear repulsive, tough, and difficult to communicate. Inner worries hinder both the creation of intimate relationships and  the advancement in the work life, because the person avoids all situations that may carry the danger of being criticized or unsuccessful. Avoidant personality disorder can often begin to manifest itself as shy and humble behavior in childhood. This may begin with a traumatic experience of rejection by society, peers, or family members. To some extent, the cause may be genetics, since the type of temperament is partly inherited.

Since a person with avoidant personality disorder has difficulty with social situations, it is common for a person to completely avoid social life and remain in isolation without appropriate treatment. 

When treating avoidant personality disorder, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is advised. Psychotherapeutic interventions can be aimed at correcting distorted perception and thinking. The motivation of the person with the avoidant disorder to participate in treatment is important in addition to a strong relationship with the therapist. It is important to set the goals of therapy intelligently so that the obstacles during the session are surmountable. Family members play a vital role in preventing and / or empowering the person with personality disorder by creating a warm, loving, supportive environment.

Social anxiety disorder vs avoidant personality disorder

Social anxiety is a state of emotional discomfort, fear, apprehension, and anxiety about a social situation and other people’s assessment.  iI a situation of interaction with people, individuals with high social anxiety think that thez will look funny or stupid, that those around them will condemn or humiliate them. 

Mental manifestations of social anxiety include fear, constant avoidance of communication and speaking.

Physical manifestations of social anxiety: palpitations, shaking (or shaking), sweating, nausea, diarrhea, feeling short of breath, dizziness, muscle tension.

The alterations in behavior include:

  • contact with people is avoided or severely limited due to fear of embarrassment;
  • situations when one has to be in the spotlight are avoided;
  • analysis of actions after communicating with people, identifying shortcomings during interaction;
  • expectation of disastrous consequences from negative experiences after such communication;
  • in children, anxiety is often accompanied by crying, irritation, fear of being left alone without parents, or refusal to speak in front of other people.

Social anxiety disorder only manifests itself during social action (communication, performance, acquaintance). In isolation or in regular, constant communication, social phobia may not manifest itself.

Psychiatrists have described many cases where a person suffering from social phobia for years does not leave the house, at the same time feels good (he/she can even study and work without leaving home),  getting used to this way of existence and does not even feel burdened by it. When one tries to take such a person out into the street, a strong inexplicable fear turns on.

Svitlana Drach

Svitlana Drach

Psychology4u.net team member

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