How To Treat Avoidant Personality


From the material I have read recently, I am pretty sure I have Avoidant Personality Disorder. I brought this up with my doctor and he thought it described me pretty well, but he said he couldn’t make that assessment because I was not over 18 at the time. I am now. Assuming this is indeed what I have, what treatments or therapies are available?

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Avoidant personality is a lot like Social Phobia. Both problems are distinguished by a pronounced social avoidance, and hesitancy to engage in social activities, feelings of social inadequacy, and fears of negative evaluation by others. The biggest difference between the diagnoses is that Avoidant Personality is made when a patient’s extreme shyness is viewed as a developmental disorder (present throughout the lifespan), and social phobia is made when the extreme shyness is viewed as an adult clinical problem. Both disorders can be diagnosed at once if a clinician making the diagnoses thinks this is appropriate. For your purposes, you are probably best off thinking of the two disorders as relatively interchangeable.

There are a variety of ways to treat social anxiety. There have always been medications that were available to lower anxiety levels. Until recently, however, most of these were addictive in nature and caused intoxication (e.g., Valium, Xanax). Some of the SSRI medications (first used as anti-depressants) have been approved for the treatment of anxiety disorders. These medications are relatively safe (so far as we know), and are not generally addictive, but do often cause inconvenient side effects (such as the inability to have an orgasm). If you are a medication sort of person, you might ask about these newer medication treatments for your anxiety.


The treatment I most recommend you look into is called Cognitive Therapy For Social Anxiety (or something like that). Cognitive Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that has been around for the last 25 years or so. Cognitive Therapy for Anxiety has been scientifically tested and shown to be highly effective as a treatment for anxiety. In my humble opinion, it is probably the best way to go as it has no side effects to speak of, and tends to have long lasting positive effects that get stronger as time goes by. (On a historical note, when I was a college student many years ago in the 1980s, I worked in the laboratory of Richard Heimberg, Ph.D., then at SUNY Albany, now at Temple University, who is one of the people who developed Cognitive Therapy for Social Phobia).

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