Avoidant personality disorder  

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Avoidant personality disorder


Avoidant personality disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by a lifelong pattern of extreme shyness, feelings of inadequacy, and sensitivity to rejection.

Alternative Names

Personality disorder - avoidant


Personality disorders are lifelong patterns of behavior that cause problems with work and relationships. About 1% of the population has this disorder, which is equally divided between the sexes. The cause of avoidant personality disorder is unknown.


People with avoidant personality disorder are preoccupied with their own shortcomings and form relationships with others only if they believe they will not be rejected. Loss and rejection are so painful that these individuals will choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others.

Exams and Tests

A person with avoidant personality may:

  • Be easily hurt by criticism or disapproval
  • Show excessive restraint in intimate relationships
  • Be reluctant to become involved with people
  • Avoid activities or occupations that involve contact with others
  • Be shy in social situations out of fear of doing something wrong
  • Exaggerate potential difficulties
  • Hold the view they are socially inept, inferior,or unappealing to other people


Antidepressant medications can often reduce sensitivity to rejection. Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral approaches, may be helpful. A combination of medication and talk therapy may be more effective than either treatment alone.

Outlook (Prognosis)

People with this disorder may develop some ability to relate to others, and this can be improved with treatment.

Possible Complications

Without treatment, a person with avoidant personality disorder may become resigned to a life of near or total isolation. They may go on to develop a second psychiatric disorder such as substance abuse or a mood disorder such as depression.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

See your health care provider or a psychiatrist if shyness or fear of rejection overwhelms your ability to function in life and relationships.

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