The topic of this paper, Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD), is a subject I felt could relate to personally to at one time. I would not have classified myself as being affected by AVPD (self-diagnosis is never a good idea), but I could definitely identify with several of the diagnostic criteria. However, with the guidance of therapy, I find my curiosity sparked with regards to this disorder and have an interest in discovering what features those individuals who are affected by AVPD demonstrate as well as potential treatments to help reduce or alleviate symptoms of this disorder.
Avoidant Personality Disorder Overview
Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) can be defined simply as a disorder in which an individual purposefully withdraws and avoids social contact for fear of rejection (Alloy, Riskind, & Manos, 2004). The individual that exhibits this disorder has an extreme sensitivity to criticism and the idea that they may be rejected, humiliated, shamed, or disapproved by others (Alloy et al., 2004). Morrison (1995) states that the sensitivity to criticism and potential disapproval has an effect making individuals with AVPD more likely to demonstrate modesty and eagerness to please others, however, this sensitivity can also lead to social isolation. The individual with AVPD may have difficulty distinguishing otherwise more innocent comments and view them as being critical. This can also lead to avoiding certain social situations and even career choices that involve a high level of interpersonal demands.
The DSM-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2000) categorizes AVPD in Cluster C of the Axis II Personality Disorders and outlines the diagnostic criteria as: A pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
(1) Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
(2) Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
(3) Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
(4) Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
(5) Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
(6) Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
(7) Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing
To further classify individuals diagnosed with AVPD, Kantor (2003) has proposed that there are four distinct “Types” within the Avoidant diagnosis. An individual who is classified as a Type I displays a non-verbal anxiety in an attempt to transform their shyness. The Type II is described as someone who “mingles” and distances themselves by detaching partially. This can be seen in their...