Social phobia to the point of extreme isolation can be crippling. More severe than social anxiety disorder, avoidant personality disorder can keep people inside for days. People who have it long for acceptance, yet are stiflingly afraid of rejection. Social interactions may be nearly impossible for these individuals, making it difficult to hold a job or maintain a healthy support network. Avoidant personality disorder facts and statistics from the latest research can help raise awareness of this debilitating condition.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Diagnosis

The American Psychological Association (APA) classifies avoidant personality disorder as a cluster C personality disorder. These are personality disorders that involve fear or anxiety. The APA and the World Health Organization (WHO) list these diagnostic criteria for avoidant personality disorder:

  • Persistent and pervasive feelings of stress and apprehension
  • Belief that oneself is socially inept, unappealing or otherwise inferior to others
  • Excessive worry about being criticized or rejected in social situations
  • Unwillingness to get involved with people unless they are certain of being liked
  • A need for security that interferes with daily life and activities
  • Avoidance of social or job-related activities that involve significant interaction with other people because of fear of criticism, disapproval or rejection
  • Reluctance to try new things or take personal risks because of a fear of being embarrassed

Prevalence of Avoidant Personality Disorder

Little research has been conducted on avoidant personality disorder. The few studies that have been done on it have come up with different numbers for its prevalence; however, a few trends have been identified. An estimated 1.5–2.5% of people in the United States have avoidant personality disorder. However, some studies have estimated its incidence to be as low as 0.8% or as high as 9.3%. Some studies, but not all, found that a higher number of women had the condition than men.

Infographic about prevalence of avoidant personality disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder in Children

Avoidant personality disorder develops throughout childhood. Childhood trauma, negative experiences, difficulty making friends and poor relationships with adults can severely damage a person’s emotional and social confidence. The disorder fully manifests when a child who had these negative experiences becomes an adult and is incapable of functioning well in normal social situations.

A person’s early childhood experiences have a significant impact on their risk of developing avoidant personality disorder. Positive interactions and relationships with parents are crucial for building social confidence and relationship-making skills. People with avoidant personality disorder often had parents or guardians who were disapproving and guilt-tripping while not being very affectionate or encouraging. Sadly, these individuals are often subjected to neglect and abuse as children.

Avoidant Personality Disorder and Co-Occurring Disorders

People with avoidant personality disorder frequently have other psychological conditions. Symptoms of this disorder often overlap with and sometimes co-occur alongside conditions like social anxiety disorder.

For a while, avoidant personality disorder was thought to be a type of social anxiety disorder. However, it’s now recognized that they are two different disorders, but are similar in many ways and often co-occur in the same people. Somewhere between 29 and 48% of people with avoidant personality disorder also meet the diagnostic criteria of social anxiety disorder.

Other mental health disorders that commonly co-occur with avoidant personality disorder include:

Infographic showing conditions that co-occur with avoidant personality disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorders and Substance Abuse

Like so many other mental health disorders, people with avoidant personality disorder may have a higher chance of developing a substance use disorder. Extreme stress and isolation can cause people to turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort or escape. The rate of avoidant personality disorder is especially high (12–35%) among people with co-occurring substance use and eating disorders.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatment and Prognosis

Psychotherapy is currently the best course of treatment for avoidant personality disorder. Unfortunately, treatment can be difficult because patients with the condition tend to avoid attending doctor appointments or seeking help from others. A treatment plan often involves cognitive-behavioral therapy to improve social skills and treatment of other co-occurring disorders.

Currently, no pharmaceutical medications are available to address avoidant personality disorder. However, some can be used to treat common co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression.

Treating avoidant personality disorder takes a lot of hard work, but it can be quite successful. About half of all patients no longer meet diagnostic criteria for the disorder after two years of treatment. This prognosis gives good hope for recovery for patients with the condition.

Substance use disorders often are made worse by mental health issues, including avoidant personality disorder. If you or a loved one are struggling with a personality disorder or other mental health condition along with an alcohol or drug addiction, specialized help is available. Call The Recovery Village today to get started.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Statistics
5 (100%) 1 vote[s]