How are drug abuse and avoidant personality disorder related? Learn about substance abuse, personality disorders and effective treatment options for both.

A person who has avoidant personality disorder may intensely fear being judged or rejected. This fear can cause them to isolate and avoid social interactions and situations. Social isolation, feelings of insufficiency and a powerful fear of humiliation can lead to significant impairment in a person’s academic, occupational and social functioning. This impairment can cause substantial amounts of physical, emotional and mental distress, which may contribute to the development of a substance abuse problem.

It is essential to understand the interactions between substance abuse and avoidant personality disorder. The misuse of alcohol or drugs may exacerbate an individual’s fear and lack of interest in socializing. Alternately, the symptoms of avoidant personality disorder may have prompted the development of a substance use disorder. People might either use substances as a way to manage their anguish and pain or to dull feelings of depression and sadness

Substance abuse may further worsen a person’s avoidant personality disorder symptoms, as remorse and embarrassment linked with substance use may intensify fears of judgment or rejection. Alcohol is a commonly misused substance as it can temporarily alleviate anxiety during social situations.

Statistics on Avoidant Personality Disorder and Drug Abuse

Although research is still developing, there are several statistics on avoidant personality disorder and drug abuse.

  • In a 2012 study, 46 percent of patients with substance abuse issues had a personality disorder, and of the 46 percent, 8 percent had avoidant personality disorder
  • Clinical studies have shown that the prevalence of personality disorders with alcoholism ranges from 22-40 percent to 58-78 percent
  • In a 2005 study, 40 percent of individuals with alcohol abuse issues had at least one personality disorder and of the 40 percent, 3.3 percent had avoidant personality disorder

Can Avoidant Personality Disorder Lead to Drug Addiction?

Avoidant personality disorder can lead to drug addiction if a person continuously relies on substances to self-medicate their symptoms. People who regularly use substances, especially in great amounts, can develop an addiction.

People may rely on alcohol and drugs to help them to function, relax and manage fears during social situations. People may even use drugs and alcohol before leaving the house to help them to manage routine social tasks, such as talking to other people or responding to questions and directives.

People with avoidant personality disorder tend to self-isolate and spend the bulk of their time alone. The majority of these individuals desire and crave social contact and friendships but may not attain them, which can lead to feelings of disappointment, loneliness and unhappiness. People with this personality disorder may also drink or use drugs in an attempt to fill their lives with some happiness and excitement.

Treating Avoidant Personality Disorder With Co-Occurring Substance Abuse

Avoidant personality disorder treatment can greatly benefit people with avoidant personality disorder, but they are often resistant to seeking help, as therapy is social by nature. Individuals with avoidant personality disorder are often debilitated by fears and concerns, leading to the avoidance of others.

When co-occurring substance abuse is present, fears can be intensified and a person’s judgment can be further impaired. To treat avoidant personality disorder and co-occurring substance abuse, a healthy therapeutic relationship must be formed with a mental health practitioner to prevent treatment dropout and early termination. It is imperative that the personality disorder and substance abuse (a dual diagnosis) be addressed simultaneously.

A person with avoidant personality disorder can benefit from learning how to manage thoughts effectively and how to engage in social interactions properly. Therapy can teach people with avoidant personality disorder how to relate to and create attachments with other people. Individuals should be educated about addiction and taught the social skills and coping mechanisms necessary to help them to manage their intense fears and to refrain from substance abuse.

If you or someone that you love has a substance abuse issue and a co-occurring mental health concern like avoidant personality disorder, help is available. Licensed mental health practitioners at The Recovery Village have extensive experience in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. To take the first step toward healing, call today to see if The Recovery Village is right for you.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS
Tracy Smith is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Nationally Certified Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, and a mental health freelance and ghostwriter. Read more

Echeburua, E, Medina, & Alzpiri, J. (2005, Apr 11). “Alcoholism and Personality Disorders: An Exploratory Study.” Oxford Academic, April 11, 2005. Accessed March 12, 2019.

Langas, AM, Malt UF & O, S. “In-depth Study of Personality Disorders […]tance Use Disorders.” BMC Psychiatry, October 12, 2012. Accessed March 12, 2019.

Mellos E, et al. “Comorbidity of Personality Disorders with Alcohol Abuse.” Pubmed, September 2010. Accessed March 12, 2019.

Smith, Kathleen. “Avoidant Personality Disorder” November 19, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.