A few months ago, I started seeing a counselor for the first time at my college. The reality is, I should have seen a counselor a very long time ago but I was always reluctant too until a recent breakdown. My entire life, I’ve always felt very anxious around almost any social situation. I have always been extremely shy and struggle making friends. I assume people are thinking negative of me and won’t like me, therefore I may come off really distant and very difficult to get to know. I struggle trusting anyone, making it really hard for me to make friendships (or keep friendships of any kind). It causes me a lot of issues in my job and my professional performance because I lack self-confidence and fear being judged. The counselor seemed to agree that what I was explaining seemed a lot like social anxiety. Even going to see a counselor was extremely challenging even after multiple sessions, I was still feeling as anxious/shy since the first few sessions. It’s really hard for me to warm up to people (if not seemingly impossible even if I know them for years) even though the counselor was very kind and nice. I found therapy hard and became frustrated with myself, so I called it quits after like the 8th or 9th session. I did make some progress and learned a lot, so it wasn’t a total waste of time. But overall, I felt hopeless like things for me weren’t ever going to change. I’m able to “Challenge” my negative thoughts with more positive ones but it didn’t really change how I truly felt. So, I began doing some research online about SAD and came across the term “avoidant personality disorder”…the description seemed very similar to SAD and began to wonder what if I had APD? Then, I also learned that treating personality disorders can be very difficult and may not be curable but treatment may relieve some symptoms. It kind of made me feel hopeless because what if the reason I haven’t been able to be “free” from this is because I have APD? Or am I overreacting? I’m not a huge fan of labels but wondering if it’s common for a therapist to tell you if they diagnosed you or not? Mine didn’t really ever “diagnose” me, they did however tell me the therapy we did was CBT.
It is time to return to the therapist. By your own words you made progress and it would be reasonable that after only 8-9 sessions that not all the work needed was completed. The real question here isn’t what the proper label is, but rather why you left therapy. Consider therapy like a microcosm of your life. You had an okay relationship with the therapist and then couldn’t maintain it. The work is in figuring out what pushes you away, and talking it through with the therapist. In this situation (as many in therapy) the process is the intervention needed. I’d make an appointment with him and put your effort there rather than on trying to self-diagnose.
Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
APA Reference Tomasulo, D. (2018). Social Anxiety or Avoidant Personality Disorder?. Psych Central.
Retrieved on July 15, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2018/05/30/social-anxiety-or-avoidant-personality-disorder/
Last updated: 27 May 2018 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 27 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.