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Avoidant personality disorder

2-minute read

Avoidant personality disorder is when people feel inadequate and are extremely sensitive to what others think about them.

Someone with an avoidant personality disorder will appear shy and timid. They may avoid people because they feel inadequate, even though they secretly wish to have company. They are very sensitive to negative judgements by others.

Symptoms of avoidant personality disorder

People with avoidant personality disorder often:

  • feel very inferior
  • are worried about being rejected
  • avoid work situations that involve contact with others because of fear of criticism, disapproval or rejection
  • don’t want to get involved with people unless they are sure of being liked
  • hold back from intimate relationships because they fear being shamed or ridiculed
  • become preoccupied with being criticised or rejected in social situations
  • are inhibited when meeting new people, due to their feeling inadequate
  • view themselves as socially inadequate, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  • are reluctant to take personal risks or become involved in new activities because they may become embarrassed

Many people have some of these traits but are still able to function normally and do not have a personality disorder. A personality disorder is a long-term pattern of behaviour, thinking and emotions that causes distress and makes it difficult to function in everyday life. People with personality disorders find it hard to change their behaviour or adapt to different situations. They may have trouble forming positive relationships with others or sustaining a job.

What causes avoidant personality disorder?

The cause is not completely known. Some people with avoidant personality disorder have come from families where personality disorders are common. Others have had childhoods that involved abuse, trauma or neglect. Some come from normal and happy families.

Avoidant personality disorder diagnosis

The diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder is best made by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist who gets to know the person over time.

Avoidant personality disorder treatment

The main form of treatment for avoidant personality disorder is long-term psychological therapy such as psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is also used.

Some people with avoidant personality disorder have other problems, such as anxiety and depression. These will need treatment too.

Not sure what to do next?

If you or someone you know are finding it difficult to manage mental health issues, try the healthdirect Symptom Checker and get advice on when to seek professional help.

The healthdirect Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2019

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