Personality disorders consist of three main clusters: cluster A (which is characterized by “odd, eccentric thinking or behavior), cluster B (which is characterized by “dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior”) and cluster C (which is characterized by “anxious, fearful thinking or behavior”). Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) is part of cluster C, along with Dependent Personality Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Those with APD harbor a sense of social anxiety and fear of rejection, which manifests itself in avoidant behaviors and social isolation.
Social situations are extremely anxiety-inducing for those with APD, and they can therefore come across as very shy and timid within these situations. It’s important to acknowledge that people with APD do not wish to avoid fulfilling friendships and relationships; rather, their anxiety and fear makes them feel compelled to avoid all social situations, leaving them with feelings of loneliness. They consistently feel as if they are being judged by others and that others view them in a very negative manner. While many people can feel shy and judged sometimes, those who have been diagnosed with APD exhibit patterns of behavior that are severely negatively impacting their everyday lives and relationships.
Just like those with APD, those with DPD experience feelings of low self-esteem, but this low self-esteem manifests itself in an extreme dependence upon others and fear of abandonment. While people with APD avoid social situations and therefore find difficulty building relationships, those with DPD are often afraid of being alone, and can therefore develop unhealthy, codependent relationships. Unfortunately, they are also more susceptible to falling into toxic and abusive relationships, because their fear of being alone means that they are more likely to put up with abusive and harmful behavior (Cleveland Clinic, 2020).
So, how do people with APD and DPD receive treatment? Oftentimes, those with APD will seek out treatment themselves, because their patterns of behavior are causing such intense feelings of isolation and emotional pain. However, people with DPD will likely have more difficulty understanding that they need help, since they can still develop relationships with others that may feel fulfilling despite their codependent nature. Since people with both disorders have low self-esteem and thought patterns that are so deeply ingrained within them, it’s important for them to become involved in therapy and work closely with a therapist to resolve their issues and aim to change their behaviors and raise their self-esteem.
What this means is that more awareness must be brought to personality disorders in general; people dealing with APD and DPD will have much less difficulty receiving help if they are able to name what they’re going through. Because personality disorders have to do with traits and behaviors that are deeply ingrained into someone’s personality, people with personality disorders might believe that they are unable to change their patterns of behavior. With consistent therapy, however, they will be able to address their issues head-on and receive the help that they need to develop happier and healthier relationships with others.
Cuncic, A. (n.d.). What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder? https://www.verywellmind.com/avoidant-personality-disorder-4172959
Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD). (n.d.). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9783-dependent-personality-disorder
Personality disorders. (2016, September 23). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20354463