Have you ever wondered why some people are so hard to get close to? It’s as if they push away even their closest family and friends. And they seem to have difficulty forming meaningful relationships.
So, today’s topic, we’re going to discuss one of the most common forms of mental illness associated with such a behavior. And it’s called the Avoidant Personality Disorder. This disorder may manifest in different ways, and understanding the seven tell-tale signs can help you better the people who may potentially have it.
But what is it exactly? People with Avoidant Personality Disorder often have a constant fear of rejection and feeling socially inadequate, which can make them hold back in social situations. They navigate a more complex path that’s characterized by a profound fear of criticism, rejection, and hypersensitivity.
People who have dealt with this ongoing sense of fear, like the fear of rejection or not being good enough, or even a long-standing shyness that has stuck with them since childhood, don’t just magically change personalities when they turn 18. It’s not like they were super social butterflies and then, out of nowhere, had to face tougher social situations that caused them to develop this disorder.
This is why diagnosing people with Avoidant Personality Disorder is complex. Diagnosing personality disorders is a complex process that requires medical professionals to have multiple interactions with clients. These interactions give them insights into different aspects of the patient’s life, friendships, family, and work or school relationships.
Medical professionals need to really understand the patient and their experiences before they can make an actual diagnosis. To understand these complexities, medical professionals rely on clinical interviews to start treatment. They also use psychological testing and assessments, giving a variety of tests that’ll provide them with important insights into the patient’s behavior.
By carefully assessing the patient’s condition, they can gain valuable insights and come up with an effective plan for dealing with it. When someone with Avoidant Personality Disorder seeks treatment, it’s often because they feel lonely and frustrated by their inability to connect with others.
This issue makes medical professionals consider different factors. Are they just socially anxious? Or maybe they’re actually experiencing depression? They also explore how the patient perceives others’ opinions of them. Is their anxiety mainly driven by fear of failure or does it stem from a deep sense of inadequacy and the fear of rejection?
Medical professionals dive deeper to understand the extent of the patient’s struggles and to see the potential mental illnesses they could consider before making a final diagnosis. This process is quite complex and it evolves over time. At first, someone might show signs of social anxiety, for instance, but as medical professionals dig deeper, they uncover the person’s tendency to avoid personal connections. And you know what?
They also find out that the patient heavily relies on alcohol to deal with life’s challenges. It’s like a journey of discovery; it requires everyone involved to really respect the whole process. These days, it seems like some people are in a hurry to make diagnoses because of the pressure from different sources, including patients themselves, who want fast results.
Diagnosing mental health conditions is not as easy as diagnosing something like anemia with a simple blood test. It takes careful analysis and evaluation to get an accurate diagnosis. That’s not all. When it comes to diagnosing personality disorders, it’s important to be cautious and not jump to conclusions, especially if the patient is below the age of 18.
You see, a person’s personality is still developing during their teenage years, so the behaviors they show can still change. However, we may start noticing certain patterns emerging in late adolescence or early adulthood in a more systematic way. Needless to say, the whole process of diagnosis may take weeks or even months.
That said, it doesn’t hurt to make yourself familiar with the signs associated with Avoidant Personality Disorder. More than anything, it will allow you to gauge whether the avoidant tendencies of a person can still be considered normal or if they already need medical intervention.
More than anything, it will allow you to gauge whether the avoidant tendencies of a person can still be considered normal or if they already need medical intervention. So, let’s identify the signs that are characteristic of Avoidant Personality Disorder.
Number 1: They’re unwilling to get involved with other people unless they’re sure of those people’s acceptance.
Think about this: how often do we really have that kind of unwavering certainty? It almost gives you a sense of childlike innocence, right? And because we don’t come across that kind of reassurance often, people with Avoidant Personality Disorder are less likely to form those deep, personal connections. They’re also more prone to a specific kind of danger. Because they don’t often receive that kind of assurance, it’s really easy for someone to manipulate them. These people pretend to be someone who may genuinely accept them. But here’s the thing. They don’t realize that these people are just putting on a show to get something from them, like money or influence. It’s like these people are saying, “Hey, come join our community. You can be a part of us and we’ll all love you.” But little do they know that these people don’t really have their best interests at heart. It’s actually a setup for them to fall into some pretty dangerous and expensive situations.
Number 2: They feel inadequate, so they hold back when they’re in a new interpersonal relationship.
When they meet new people, whether it’s friends, coworkers, or potential partners, they often feel inadequate and see themselves as less than the person in front of them. This leads to hesitation about showing their true selves and a deep sense of awkwardness.
For example, they’ll tend to downplay their profession, even if it’s incredibly interesting. It’s like they’re ashamed of what they do, so they’re holding back information. This is because they fear being laughed at. If something like that happens, it can really hold them back for years.
The fear of that happening stops them from even thinking about opening up. It’s tough because we can’t control how people react to us. But because they feel so inadequate, they tend to hold back, especially when meeting new folks.
Number 3: They are risk-averse.
People with Avoidant Personality Disorder tend to be really hesitant when it comes to taking risks or trying new things, especially around others. They’re so afraid of embarrassing themselves, so you won’t catch them doing karaoke or stealing the spotlight at family gatherings, like their sibling’s wedding. It’s not just about being self-conscious, though.
They also worry about making others uncomfortable by witnessing their awkwardness. Unfortunately, this fear of embarrassment really holds them back from fully engaging with life. They end up missing out on so many amazing opportunities, like the thrill of jumping into a cool pond from a sturdy rock, simply because they’re too worried about not doing it perfectly and facing public humiliation.
It’s sad to see them longing for these experiences but being paralyzed by the fear of shame. As a result, they miss out on countless chances for personal growth, curiosity, making new connections, and advancing in their professional lives. The fear of embarrassment outweighs their motivation to pursue these exciting endeavors.
Number 4: They’re preoccupied with the idea of being criticized in front of others.
People with Avoidant Personality Disorder often hold back from expressing their opinions because they’re afraid of being ridiculed, especially in this era of intense polarization. The fear of facing criticism stops them from openly sharing their thoughts, even when they strongly believe in something.
This result in them being perceived as passive or uninterested. In fact, they may have a lot to say, but the fear of facing criticism stops them from pursuing their thoughts.
It’s like they have a lot of thoughts and ideas brewing inside, but they don’t feel safe enough to share them with others, even those they have close relationships with.
Number 5: They go out of their way to avoid opportunities.
These individuals usually avoid roles that involve a lot of interaction with others because they’re afraid of making mistakes, looking silly, or dealing with criticism. Take the case of jobs.
They actively stay away from opportunities for career growth, promotions, or transfers that would require them to engage with people. Sadly, this kind of behavior can really hurt their income, job prospects, and overall job security.
Surprisingly, they don’t seem to be bothered by these consequences because they are willing to do whatever it takes to avoid dealing with potential criticisms. That matters more to them than anything else.
Number 6: They restrain from revealing their true selves in close relationships, including romantic ones.
People with Avoidant Personality Disorder often have a tendency to hold back and restrain themselves in intimate relationships. This comes from a deep-rooted fear of being shamed or ridiculed by their partners. So, they find it hard to open up and share their true selves, including their vulnerabilities and intimate thoughts and feelings.
It’s like they genuinely worry that their partner might make fun of them, which leaves them feeling insecure and apprehensive about revealing their true selves. Some people might see this behavior as being distant, cold, or even excessively shy.
But it’s important to understand that these individuals act this way because they’re afraid of being shamed, which they think will likely happen once others see their entire personality.
Number 7: They judge themselves.
People with avoidant personality disorder often put themselves down. Often, they see themselves as socially inept and believe they lack social skills compared to others. Even if it’s not true, they think it is, and this belief becomes a core part of who they are. As a result, they tend to avoid interactions.
And they may even assume that others are more socially skilled. So, when people act like this, they usually tend to be socially reserved and avoid taking risks. But by doing that, they end up missing out on so many opportunities and just keep feeling like they’re not good with people.
Ultimately, their active avoidance of people just ends up reinforcing their belief that they’re socially inept. This can be seen as a cognitive distortion in many ways. But for those going through it, it feels incredibly real.