Avoidant Personality Disorder?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I am socially anxious at times…I have SoOO many symptoms I need help on..I think I may have avoidant personality disorder.

I am normal and just fine some days and other days I’m very, very down and hard on myself, always blaming myself, low self esteem, passive, socially inept a lot. Have a hard time feeling like I can “be myself” around people.

Having a very hard time finding my occupational calling b/c I feel that I’m horrible working with others.
Just went wedding dress shopping with my sister and she bought a dress, and for whatever reason, as such a big deal as this is, it was hard to “act” excited, bubbly, fun, and energetic. I feel horrible. She was my maid of honor and was the best maid of honor a bride could have. I’m trying to be there, but I’m just not as good as she is. I feel inferior to her often. She’s extremely confident. How did her big sister become this way and she another?

I had an amazing childhood, very close w/ family. Though always a little bit of an outcast in school. rejected by friends a lot. Tough time finding true friends until college. Very down on myself. When I’m feeling “myself” I am fun, warm hearted, practical and easy going. When I’m down I’m reserved, quiet, hard to keep a conversation going. Always feel like people are judging me or criticizing me.

Had a terrible first experience w/ my first job outside of college that scarred me – bad relationship w/ boss.. having a hard time keeping a job ever since (it’s been almost 3 yrs now!)

Married, have a wonderful relationship w/ my husband. Though my husband is very reserved and quiet, and maybe this is rubbing off on me?

I am even more hard on myself b/c I’ve always dreamed of being like my mom who is just about the most bubbly fun loving person you can find out there that is extremely social. Her and my little sister are the same way, and I’m more quiet.. which kills me. I don’t know why I can’t accept myself. I used to be more social! Now,… I don’t know what’s wrong w/ me?

So sorry to go off, but I’m desperately seeking answers.. is this avoidant personality dis.? What would help me? group therapy? meds? a class? PLEASE HELP! I am always putting myself down, I don’t know why, and I don’t know how to stop it. I’m starting to withdraw from telling my family when I’m down b/c I think they are sick of hearing about it. :( I know this isn’t normal.

Also, I’m too self conscious about how I act, how others act, and it’s really becoming obsessive that I feel ppl can’t be comfortable w/ me. :( I really want good relationships, and I want to have more friends and not live in so much fear. I go to the gym and have no problem leaving my house if I need something.. or going out for that matter. I’ve never been on meds, and I’m trying not to (or do something natural).. just started checking into group therapy around my town. I actually live in green bay, didn’t want others to know who I was so I can remain anonymous. I’m trying so hard to just be normal and not feel like I have to “try” to live daily life normally.. why is this so hard? What do you believe is wrong w/ me? I really appreciate the response! Thank you so much in advance!!

A. While I cannot officially offer a diagnosis over the Internet I can say that your symptoms do not seem to match that of an individual with avoidant personality disorder. There may be no particular “diagnosis” that exists for you. It may be that you recently have begun to notice that you’re not feeling happy. It’s possible that you are experiencing a generalized depression.

If we met in person I would ask you when the symptoms first began. You wrote about feeling “normal” some days and depressed and upset on others. Has this always been the case for you throughout your life? It would be helpful to know how long you’ve experienced fluctuations in mood. This information would help me determine whether this is a new problem or something that you’ve recently become aware of. You may have become aware of your mood shifts because they have intensified or you may have recently become more cognizant of your moods.

I also would want to know whether anything has changed in your life recently. Have you begun a new medication? I don’t mean psychiatric medicine because you mentioned you are not taking any but a change in any medication could affect your mood. Has there recently been a loss in your life, a career shift, a breakup or anything related to a change in your life circumstances? This information would be helpful to know because any life changes may partly account for the fluctuations in your mood.

There’s also the possibility that you’re feeling stressed because of some standard you have placed on yourself that you are not meeting as you think you should. For instance you mentioned the idea that you cannot find your “occupational calling” because you feel that you’re “horrible working with others.” There are several potential issues with this statement. One is you may have set an unrealistic goal for yourself such as “I have to have found my dream occupation within a particular amount of time” or you’ll deem yourself a failure. Some people place unrealistic standards on themselves and when they are unable to meet them, they feel as though they are a failure or an inferior person. I also wonder how you came to the conclusion that you are “horrible working with others.” Did something negative happen that led you to believe this about yourself? What evidence do you have to prove this to be true? Is it possible that you have misjudged this aspect of yourself?

You also wrote that you are hard on yourself because you’ve “always dreamed of being like your mother who is a bubbly and fun loving person.” Apparently you have determined that you are not a “bubbly and fun loving person.” Again, it’s possible that you have misjudged yourself.

It’s also possible that being the “bubbly and fun loving person” is not a characteristic of your personality. If that is the case, that’s okay. You have to recognize that you are not your mother nor are you your sister. They have their own unique personalities and so do you. I suspect that you may be unfairly comparing yourself to your mother and sister, feeling as though you have to be like them, and then concluding that because you’re not, there is something wrong with you. You don’t have to be a clone of them; you only have to be yourself. In fact, if you try to be anybody other than yourself you’ll find that it’s a very unhappy existence. It’s important and psychologically imperative that you be yourself and not try to pretend to be somebody you’re not.

You mentioned that you’re self-conscious about how you act, how others act and are becoming obsessive about what other people think of you. This is not healthy and it’s an area in which a therapist could be very helpful to you. Group therapy can also be helpful with this problem. I don’t think medication would be helpful in this instance because much of what you’re dealing with has to do with how you think about yourself and others. The problem therefore is a cognitive one. Because most of what you’re experiencing has to do with negative thoughts, talk therapy and working to correct your thinking may be the most beneficial type of treatment for you at this time. Thanks for writing. I wish you luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Jun 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Avoidant Personality Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/06/01/avoidant-personality-disorder/

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