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Alternative NamesPersonality disorder - avoidant
Definition Return to top
Avoidant personality disorder is a psychiatric condition in which a person has a lifelong pattern of feeling extremely shy, inadequate, and sensitive to rejection.
Causes Return to top
Personality disorders are lifelong patterns of behavior that cause problems with work and relationships.
About 1% of the population has avoidant personality disorder. It is equally divided between males and females. The cause is unknown.
Symptoms Return to top
People with avoidant personality disorder are preoccupied with their own shortcomings. They form relationships with others only if they believe they will not be rejected. Loss and rejection are so painful that these people will choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others.
Exams and Tests Return to top
A person with avoidant personality disorder may:
Treatment Return to top
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) Return to top
People with this disorder may develop some ability to relate to others, and this can be improved with treatment.
Possible Complications Return to top
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 Return to top
See your health care provider or a psychiatrist if shyness or fear of rejection overwhelms your ability to function in life and relationships.
References Return to top
Moore DP, Jefferson JW. Avoidant personality disorder. In: Moore DP, Jefferson JW, eds. Handbook of Medical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2004: chap 141.Update Date: 10/17/2008 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Timothy A. Rogge, MD, private practice in Psychiatry, Kirkland, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.