What causes avoidant personality disorder?

Updated: Nov 12, 2019
  • Author: David C Rettew, MD; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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The exact cause of avoidant personality disorder is unknown.

The disorder may be related to temperament and personality traits that are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Specifically, various anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence have been associated with a temperament characterized by behavioral inhibition, including features of being shy, fearful, and withdrawn in new situations. [9]

Genetic factors have been hypothesized to cause avoidant personality disorder and social phobia. A twin study of Norwegian young adults found a 35% genetic effect for avoidant personality disorder; most (83%) of these genes are also related to other personality disorders. [6]

Environmental factors also play in role in avoidant personality disorder. Parenting behaviors, such as low parental affection or nurturing, were associated with an elevated risk of avoidant personality disorder when these children reached adulthood. [10]

Retrospective studies of adults with avoidant personality disorder report high levels of childhood emotional abuse (61%). [11] However, physical abuse may be more closely linked with a diagnosis of another personality disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A multifactorial model of causation is likely, with genetic and environmental factors interacting from infancy in various combinations.

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