What is avoidant personality disorder?

Updated: Nov 12, 2019
  • Author: David C Rettew, MD; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Answer

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM5), avoidant personality disorder (APD) is characterized by a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation. [1, 2] Individuals who meet the criteria for avoidant personality disorder are often described as being extremely shy, inhibited in new situations, and fearful of disapproval and social rejection. The intensity of the symptoms and level of impairment is beyond that which occurs with the trait of shyness that is present in as many as 40% of the population.

Similar to other personality disorders, avoidant personality disorder becomes a major component of a person's overall character and a central theme in an individual's pattern of relating to others. Also similar to other personality disorders, the diagnosis is rarely made in individuals younger than 18 years, even if the criteria are met. The literature regarding childhood avoidant personality disorder is extremely limited.

More information is known about social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder) which has many overlapping features with avoidant personality disorder. Indeed, some experts contend that avoidant personality disorder is a variant of social anxiety disorder while others contend that there are enough differences to justify 2 separate diagnoses. Whereas in social anxiety disorder, significant distress or impairment in social or occupational function is a part of the diagnostic criteria, [3, 4] in avoidant personality disorder, the degree of distress or impairment is not designated.


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