There are many myths about avoidant personality disorder and the people who have it. Learning the facts can help them find the right treatment.
Many misconceptions and stigmas surround people with avoidant personality disorder (AVPD). While people with avoidant personality disorder may be seen as shy or antisocial, they actually have a mental illness that hinders their ability to socialize with others, even if they want to.
Once diagnosed, AVPD can be successfully treated. Understanding avoidant personality disorder is key to finding the right help or helping those with the condition receive the treatment they need.
1. Myth: People with avoidant personality disorder are just shy.
Fact: People with AVPD have a mental condition that goes beyond simply feeling shy.
Many people experience shyness, nervousness about talking to new people or mild fear of being embarrassed in a social situation. Shy people deal with these feelings in a healthy way and still have a fulfilling social life. With avoidant personality disorder, however, these feelings can be overwhelming and can prevent people from going to places where social interaction is possible. It has a severely negative impact on their everyday and personal lives.
2. Myth: Avoidant personality disorder is the same as introversion.
Fact: Avoidant personality disorder and introversion are completely different conditions.
Just as many myths surround introversion as avoidant personality disorder. Introversion is not a mental disorder at all, but a normal, healthy personality trait. Many introverts actually enjoy socializing, have many friends and like to meet new people. They simply need a certain amount of quiet time or solitude to feel relaxed, rested or recharged. People may fall anywhere on the extroversion-introversion spectrum, with some being more or less introverted than others.
People with avoidant personality disorder, on the other hand, may find it nearly impossible to engage in social situations. This avoidance is not caused by a desire for a healthy amount of alone time, but by excessive concerns about being criticized or feeling embarrassed.
3. Myth: People with AVPD dislike others.
Fact: People with avoidant personality disorder often desire intimacy and close relationships.
While people with AVPD do avoid social situations, it’s not because they dislike other people. Many people with the disorder feel a strong desire for friendship or an intimate connection with others. However, they are often held back from forming these close bonds by their extreme fear of being disliked, ridiculed or otherwise harshly judged. Often, they view their own perceived flaws as the reasons why they are unable to have healthy relationships and will only engage in social interactions when they feel certain that they will be accepted and not criticized.
4. Myth: Avoidant personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder are the same.
Fact: AVPD and antisocial personality disorder are two distinct conditions.
There are several similarities between avoidant personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. In both cases, people often do not follow typical social behaviors. They may have trouble maintaining healthy relationships with others or have a fear of becoming emotionally attached to other people known as attachment anxiety.
However, these two personality disorders are quite different in a few key ways. Antisocial personality disorder is not characterized by a fear of social situations like AVPD is. Instead, people with antisocial personality disorder behave in ways that violate social norms. They still choose to interact with other people, but only in ways that manipulate or take advantage of them.
5. Myth: Avoidant personality disorder is not treatable.
Fact: Avoidant personality disorder can be treated.
Treating AVPD can sometimes be challenging because patients may be reluctant to seek help. Reaching out to make an appointment is a challenge for people with the disorder. However, with proper therapy, people can often learn to successfully manage their condition. Treatment for avoidant personality disorder usually consists of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Through this kind of talk therapy and behavioral counseling, patients can learn to manage their anxieties about social rejection.
Often, patients with this condition also have co-occurring disorders such as depression or anxiety, which can be treated with medications. However, there are currently no medications that can treat avoidant personality disorder directly. Though it is a long process, treatment through psychotherapy is usually successful.
Personality disorders such as AVPD often occur along with substance use disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling with a personality disorder and a drug or alcohol addiction, specialized help is available. Contact The Recovery Village to learn what we can do for you.
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Lampe L, Malhi GS. “Avoidant personality disorder: current insights.” Psychology Research and Behavior Management, March 8, 2018. Accessed May 27, 2019.
Cleveland Clinic. “Avoidant Personality Disorder: Outlook/Prognosis.” Accessed May 28, 2019.
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