What happens when shyness is taken to the extreme? This personality disorder causes the person to avoid certain feelings as a lifeline in the face of life’s difficulties. But over time there is a progressive isolation of the person and their isolation from the world.
Avoidant Personality Disorder , also called Avoidant Personality Disorder , is a pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation by others.
It affects 2.4% of the population (men and women) and begins in the early stages of adulthood.
Characteristics of an avoidant personality
This disorder is diagnosed when four or more of the following criteria are met:
- Avoid work activities that involve significant interpersonal contact for fear of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.
- You are reluctant to establish relationships with others, unless you are sure you are appreciated.
- He is withdrawn in close relationships because he fears that he will be embarrassed or ridiculed.
- You are worried about being criticized or rejected in social situations.
- He is inhibited in new interpersonal situations due to the feeling of lack of adaptation.
- You see yourself as socially inept , unattractive or inferior to others.
- You are extremely reluctant to take personal risks or get involved in new activities because they can be embarrassing.
Shyness is the main cause
Some situations experienced in childhood can condition the appearance of phobias or disorders such as: rejection or marginalization, excessive criticism by attachment figures, inattention or neglect and / or abuse.
However, shyness is the precursor to avoidant personality disorder. In most people it dissipates with age, but for people with the disorder, shyness increases in adolescence and adulthood, becoming increasingly evasive.
On the other hand, they tend to carefully evaluate the behavior of others with respect to them and that expectation can provoke the ridicule or ridicule of others , which would confirm their own negative suspicions. It would be the so-called self-fulfilling prophecy , which would further reinforce the isolation as a result of that shyness.
Avoiding is not always negative
In fact, it can be an adaptive resource to protect us from greater evils and preserve our well-being, especially when we do not have enough resources to handle the situation. It would be the flight coping strategy . However, on a psychological level, stopping facing things can entail a high emotional cost since everything that we do not face turns into fear .
- In the short term , it relieves us by not having to face the dreaded situation.
- In the medium-long term , if we repeat the avoidance behavior, we conclude our own ineffectiveness (which negatively affects our self-esteem) and increases fear exponentially.
We could therefore say that avoidance is harmful when the damage derived from avoiding is greater than the initial damage .
It is important to keep in mind that avoidance is not something merely social . It is also cognitive , behavioral and emotional , which translates into not thinking, not doing and not managing my emotions because that way I do not face what scares me (which still feeds back the fear).
Can lead to isolation
If the pathology is very advanced and does not receive treatment, it can lead to isolation. It is also common for it to occur simultaneously with other disorders. The most common are:
- Major depressive disorder.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Anxiety disorders (panic disorder, generalized anxiety, etc.).
- Dependent personality disorder or borderline personality disorder.
- Substance abuse.
The social phobia is a diagnosis that is often confused with avoidant personality disorder, but the latter is wider, not only occurs in specific social situations but also in situations of more closeness and intimacy. The fear of rejection is also more intense.
How to handle it?
Psychotherapy is considered the most effective treatment for this disorder. Some of the important aspects to deal with are:
- Social skills training . Group therapy is a particularly effective format in this regard.
- Gradual exposure to social contact, setting specific objectives.
- Cultivate self-esteem and confidence.
- Fear of criticism and rejection.
- Address dysfunctional beliefs about oneself and others, as well as the dilemmas that may be involved.
- In the event that there is dependence on a person of reference, elaborate it and expand intimacy with other people.
- Explore the origin of avoidance.
- Treat possible associated symptoms, for example, depression.
What you should know…
- We could therefore say that avoidance is harmful when the damage derived from avoiding is greater than the initial damage.
- If the pathology is very advanced and does not receive treatment, it can lead to isolation. It is also common for it to occur simultaneously with other disorders.
- Psychotherapy is considered the most effective treatment for this disorder.