My question is about likelihood of me having Avoidant Personality Disorder. I understand that one can’t be truly diagnosed/assisted over the internet. But I need some answers and meeting with a therapist isn’t possible for me at the moment.

So, here is why I suspect that I could have this disorder :
I stumbled upon the descriptions of it by accident and it was like reading my own story. The deepest fears that I could never share with anyone -nor could they understand-  were explained on the page in details.

History:
I have always been shy…as a kid, I was so shy I practically couldn’t speak much outside our home. I never had anyone my age around me. Spent all my time playing alone…no friends or anything. I couldn’t bring myself to go outside and play…I remember feeling both scared and left out at the same time watching other kids play outside. Even at an early age, I was self-conscious. My mum tells me if people laughed out all of a sudden, I’d assume it’s directed at me. I was three then…I still carry that to this day.

At primary school, I found it hard to relate to anyone. I was the ‘odd one out’. I did befriend someone but only because she kept coming back. I never was able to initiate any sort of relationship. My second-grade teacher commented on me “can’t relate to other kids”. In fourth grade, I was taken to a therapist for extreme shyness. It ended bitterly with molestation.
At middle school, I was simply disliked because I was fairly successful academically and a little withdrawn. At high school, though I was bullied by a group of girls. It was nothing physical, but they were there everyday to whisper about me, laugh at me or humiliate me in anyways possible. The group I used to hang it with, found it amusing for some reason…
I’ve never been in any sort of remotely intimate relationship, or any real close friendships.

Family :
I don’t come from a broken home. My parents are still married. they are somewhat controlling. My dad is a ‘my-way-or-no-way’ type of man. You do it his way or get slated in one way or another. I often feel like I was never enough for him. Over the years, I’ve come to dislike him deeply, however hard it is to admit. And I feel guilty for it. even though I love my mum and sister, I can’t share much with them…mainly due to the fear of being criticized or judged.

Random details :
Now in college, I only have one friend whom I’ve never met in real life. She lives in another continent. I’m still painfully shy. My voice comes out as a hesitant whisper but it rings in my own ears. I find it VERY hard to eat/drink in public. I never leave house except for college and grocery shopping. and even then I speak to no one. I’m still very self-conscious…automatically assuming people are whispering/laughing about something in my appearance/behavior and that is soooo draining. If I have to talk to someone, I go over the possible conversation many many times in my head and  get cold hands/knot in stomach. I dislike myself with a passion and often feel inferior to other people…there is always something to make me feel I’m of less worth than others. I self-injure from time to time when the self-hatred gets unbearable. There is no single class I’ve finished in college without thinking the instructor hated me for being the loser I come across as…and it eventually adds to the self-hatred.

Even prior to finding out about AvPD, I always knew I’ll have to see a therapist someday. Now I want to know if this is what I might have to seek help for.
Thanks for any help in advance.

A: Hello, and thank you for your question:

It sounds like you’ve had a very hard time with your shyness, and I’m sorry for your pain. While it does sound like you have a serious problem interacting with people, the good news is that you can be helped. I would hesitate labeling you with a personality disorder, though.

Any diagnosis that includes “personality disorder” is very serious and should be reserved for the most severe cases. I don’t wish to diminish the suffering you have experienced. I just want to let you know that since there is help for you to overcome your fears, you more than likely have some avoidant traits—that is, some of the problems that you mention fit the criteria, some do not.

For instance, you are in college, and that is wonderful. While you may keep to yourself, you still are able to sit in a classroom, walk around campus, and travel in public. It may be painful, but you are able to do it. That is terrific.  I wish I could do therapy over the Internet, but want to offer you some advice to work on until you can find a specialist who can teach you how to overcome these issues.

I would first suggest some research on how to help yourself overcome your shyness. It will take some work, and will be scary in the beginning, but if you really want to recover from these fears, it takes a tiny bit of courage (which you clearly already have!).

Find yourself a copy of “Shyness; What it is, What to do about it.” It is written by the famous psychologist, Dr. Phillip Zimbardo. Study it, and do what he suggests, no matter how scary it may seem. You really can start to fix it yourself. You don’t have to be afraid of trying what he suggests. Honest.

Self-hatred isn’t about being avoidant, either. It’s about low self-esteem which, left unchecked, can perpetuate itself. Write out a list of things that you know to be good about yourself. From reading your letter I know that there are some really special things that you may be too shy to admit to others, but make the list. Be honest with yourself, and don’t worry about sounding like you are bragging. This is where you are supposed to be bragging, OK?

Rather than label you with a personality disorder, I would suggest that you have a big dose of social anxiety disorder. That is fixable. When you are ready, find yourself a specialist who deals with anxiety disorders in your area by going to this link: Psychology Today.

You can do it! Take those first big steps to freedom. You don’t have to be imprisoned by your fears.

I hope this helps,

Dr. Diana Walcutt

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Jul 2009

APA Reference
Walcutt, D. (2009). How likely do you think it is that I have AvPD?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/07/15/how-likely-do-you-think-it-is-that-i-have-avpd/