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The Avoidant Personality Disorder

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The Avoidant Personality Disorder

PSY 306--Psychology of Personality

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This research report discusses the Avoidant Personality Disorder. It states the criteria that diagnoses the individual. In addition, the report tells of the outward, as well as, inward characteristics of a person displayed in the Avoidant Personality. I have included possible environmental factors on how a person may develop the disorder. Other areas, such as self-image, view of others, and relationships are addressed. The final section of the report states the different types of treatments that have been used to help treat the Avoidant Personality. You will find a treatment provider guideline that can help the counselor realistically access the progress of treatment for the Avoidant Personality.

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The Avoidant Personality Disorder

In Mellon and Every’s study (as cited in Jones, n.d, p.1), the avoidant personality (AvPD) is considered to an active-detached personality pattern, meaning that avoidants purposefully avoid people due to fears of embarrassment, humiliation, and rejection. It is thought to be a pathological extension of the “normal inhibited” personality which is characterized by a watchful behavioral appearance, shy interpersonal conduct, a preoccupied cognitive style, uneasy affective expression, a lonely self-perception. This statement is saying that the avoidant personality disorder can exhibit symptoms that can go from mild, e.g., a normally shy person to the extreme, e.g., a person who has no close friends or confidants (Jones, n.d, p.1).

According to the Avoidant Personality Disorder Homepage (, “it should be noted that many more people have avoidant styles as opposed to having the personality disorder. The major difference has to do with how seriously an individual’s functioning in everyday life is affected. The avoidant personality can be thought of as spanning a continuum from healthy to pathological. The avoidant style is at the healthy end, while the avoidant personality disorder lies at the unhealthy end.”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth edition (DSM-IV), describes the Avoidant Personality Disorder (as cited in The Avoidant Personality Disorder Homepage, n.d., p.1) as:

A pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

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1. avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.

2. is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked.

3. shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed.

4. is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social settings.

5. is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy.

6. views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others.

7. is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they might prove embarrassing.

Self-Image of AvPD Individual

Ekleberry (2000) states a person who suffers with AvPD is preoccupied by the unpleasant personal definition they hold of themselves. The individual sees themselves as being inadequate, being unlikable, defective, and unable to fit in with others (Ekleberry, 2000, p.2). This self-image usually results from the following environmental factors (Kantor; Millon & Everly, n.d., as cited by Jones, n.d. p.16):

1. the amount of frequent and intense rejections the AvDP individual experiences as an infant and child by their parents. These type of parental rejection crushes the child’s

natural energy and optimism, leaving instead attitudes of self-deprecation and feelings of social isolation. This behavior is a direct contradiction of parental behavior, as society calls them to unconditionally love and accept their child

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2. If the child experiences this type of parental rejection described above, and is compounded with the rejection of their brothers or sisters. The sibling(s) sees this behavior or attitude that the parent has for their rejected brother or sister, and may model this behavior. This behavior just reinforces the negative feelings that may be growing inside the rejected child.

3. If the parental or sibling rejection is compounded by rejection from the peer group, the prognosis points heavily toward a personality disorder.

Repeated social interactions expose an individual to potential rejection over

a sustained period of time (Jones, n.d., p. 16). Such rejection, if it occurs, can wear down the individual’s sense of self-esteem (Jones, n.d., p 16). Following humiliation and peer rejection, a child will begin to criticize him or herself. Feelings of lonliness and isolation are made worse because of harsh self-judgments, and increasing self-worthlessness contribute to withdrawing behavior (Jones, n.d., p. 16). Rejection by the child’s peer seems to validate the rejection by their parents and siblings. When children are not validated or accepted by their parents, siblings or peers, and themselves, they retreat (Jones, n.d., p. 16).

Eventually, this child’s view is carried throughout their lives, and he or she believes that others will react to them in similar fashion (Ekleberry, 2000, p. 2). This individual is often unable to recognize their own admirable qualities that make them bother likable and desirable (Will, Retzlaff, ed., 1995, as cited in Ekleberry, 2000, p. 2). Rather, this person sees him or herself as socially inept and inferior. A person with AvPD describes him or herself as ill at ease, anxious, and sad (Ekleberry, 2000, p. 2). They are lonely; they feel unwanted and isolated. An individual



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