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Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Avoidant Personality Disorder


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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Your personality is your unique way of thinking, understanding, reacting, and relating to people.

A personality disorder isn't just an unusual personality. It's when personality traits cause significant problems in your life or keep you from relating normally to others.

What is avoidant personality disorder?

Avoidant personality disorder is:

  • A pattern of avoiding people and social situations out of fear of being rejected or criticized

People with avoidant personality disorder:

  • Have low self-esteem and are very sensitive to criticism

  • Want friends but have trouble making them

  • Avoid social situations because they're embarrassed or fearful or being made fun of

  • Avoid interacting with new people or taking on new responsibility at work

  • Tend to be quiet and shy because they're worried they'll say the wrong thing

  • See themselves as unworthy and assume other people disapprove of them

  • Don't want to try new activities or take risks

Lots of people are a little anxious in social situations or when meeting new people. And no one enjoys being criticized. But these kinds of feelings can become a disorder if they keep people from succeeding at work or enjoying a normal life, or if people become preoccupied with their difficulties.

Avoidant personality disorder is more common in women. People with the disorder often also have depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) , anxiety, or another personality disorder.

What causes avoidant personality disorder?

Avoidant personality disorder is probably caused by both:

  • Your genes (the genetic information passed to you from your parents)

  • Your experiences and upbringing

How do doctors treat avoidant personality disorder?

Doctors treat avoidant personality disorder with:

  • Counseling or talk therapy that focuses on social skills

  • Sometimes, other types of therapy

  • Medicine for any anxiety and depression

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