For more in depth understanding of
Avoidant Personality Disorder and the problems
that may overlap with it,
OBSERVATIONS: THE AVOIDANT PERSONALITY*
HYPER VIGILANCE AND MONITORING:
Monitors environment to see if others are watching, judging
mentally scrutinizing them.
Checks to see if and where exits are located so if they need
leave they will make efforts to cause the least amount of
to themselves and slip out announced.
May continually scan their environment for people who look
especially if they've experienced trauma in their
Might believe others don't like them or are talking about
May believe they aren't
physically attractive enough to warrant interest from others.
May be sensitive to smells, loud sounds, lights or fabrics.
AND SAFETY ISSUES:
Builds a mental database about who can be trusted.
Picks up on the slightest idiosyncrasy other individuals
Is often judgmental of others and can't overlook incidental
personality quirks. Alternatively, Avoidants who are in
lonely phases may endure and "subject" themselves to people
so that some connections are made.
Screens people out when the person or the situation (could be
a professional environment) appears to be unsafe, insensitive,
self-centered or unaccommodating.
May take a lot of energy and
effort to maintain trust in their
Some Avoidants have problems setting boundaries with
narcissistic or other types and are vulnerable to
manipulation. * See below the description for "manipulation".
CONTROL ISSUES, (Environmental):
An Avoidant has a need for a high degree of control
within their environment.
Movie theaters, restaurants, classrooms, workplace, churches,
bathrooms and gyms may pose issues and feel threatening when
the desired "placement" of their environment has shifted.
They are territorial and preferential; if something causes
their routine to change it can set them back mentally.
This can break an Avoidants routine or make it hard to
leave home for activities or extended stays elsewhere.
This can challenge a person who relies on having an exact
booth at an eatery, exact bathroom stall, exact chair or desk
near a quiet corner or a wall etc.
Avoidants do not like the sense that others are encroaching
in on their privacy and even though they may be in a public
place - such control issues can make it hard for them to feel
relaxed and comfortable enough to stay if something
interrupts their flow.
When other people enter into their space their inner hackles
can come up although others may not perceive this. More often
this is interpreted as an aloofness.
May not accept rides with co-workers or friends for fear they
will be stuck in a situation where they can't leave when they
Will give up doing something they like if the activity
invites the participation of too many other people or the
threat of "over familiarity" exists.
Alternatively, an Avoidant may prefer some crowded situations
such as social groupings of common interest - if it helps
them FADE into the background while still giving them a sense
of belonging. Some may enjoy big cities due to the aliveness
it invokes in them in contrast to
others who feel overwhelmed
and nervous with too many people
It's understandable however that
Avoidants who can venture out
into a pulsing mass are just the
opposite when in their own home
environment - to which is the boundary to all that is SANCTUARY
Ordinarily, an Avoidant is not assertive or outspoken, though
they may be at times when feeling unduly intruded upon or
when they are passionate about a subject or cause. This
momentary assertiveness is easily misconstrued as hostility
by others. An Avoidant will often experience a mixture of
emotions related to such events: Annoyance, frustration,
courage, pride, self respect, indignation, relief.
Quickly, thereafter, an Avoidant will question and second
guess themselves, dissecting the event for hours on end. They
may feel guilty or bad for having expressed themselves in
such an "abrupt" manner and even more inadequate
than before. A paradox lies at the heart of this; they'd
rather be able to assert their rights, express their opinions
and generally feel at ease with themselves on a regular basis
than have but a taste only to retreat back into their shell
of non confrontation.
A high functioning Avoidant may
exude confidence that
matches competence and clear
capabilities related to their
craft or job. However, these same
individuals may have
an unending fear and aversion to
involved with people for fear of
not measuring up as
social beings. Anything outside
the realm of their profession
may expose a fragile ego
Dependent Personality, Trust & Self Reliance:
Some Avoidants have the ability to maintain long term
friendships and relationships. This is especially true if
they've known the other person for a long time. i.e.. from
childhood or the person has a proven track record so that
the Avoidant comes to trust and rely upon
Relationships with family, spouses and friends when proven
supportive/caring offer a safety record therefore they can
be trusted. This kind of familiarity helps the Avoidant feel
connected and somewhat grounded. However, intense dependency
is very much a big problem for Avoidants that rely on one or
two people, i.e., a family member, spouse or partner for their
their only connection
personal (or financial) support.
An Avoidant who is self-reliant usually has had the opposite
experience. They are financially self sufficient though while they
may have people they associate
with it is usually at some distance.
They may or may not have
attachments to family
or to a significant
The dependent Avoidant can still have a very independent side.
They may yearn to know what it feels like
to be independent and
capable of caring for themselves but fear
holds them back. Often,
this type of Avoidant has been out of
social and professional loops
for years and feels ashamed at their
inability to contribute to
themselves, their families or society at
They may trust one
person only and come to
depend on that individual for emotional,
financial sustenance while not being able to connect with
anyone else or maintain relationships outside of the primary
It should be noted
Abuse, rejection, neglect and even bullying by
peers can harm
the identity and self concept of a young child and if
predisposition (organic Avoidance traits) is assumed, it takes
little to do major damage. Therefore, this type of
individual will likely have a difficult
time developing or maintaining
relationships. Familiarity can frighten them off and they may feel
vulnerable even if they desire connection with other
people. In the dependent Avoidant, the vulnerability factor has been
lessoned by consistent support shown for
them and it
true for AVPD's with past trauma as children to identify one person
safe haven but have little trust for anyone else. It should also
be mentioned however that a
dependent Avoidant may be more
suceptable to abuse and ridicule by spouses, parents
who attribute their reliance to weakness and laziness
increasing their fear that they may at any point in
time be abandoned.
It has been noted that some features
of Avoidance extend
into areas where the individual will
fear intimate and sexual
contact even when attracted to
the other person. They may
allow themselves to admire and
have feelings from a distance
as long as the other person
doesn't know. This is sometimes
termed as "unrequited love."
The flipside to this kind of
ambivalence might also be expressed
only after a relationship has
formed and the Avoidant with intimacy
intolerance may withdraw
both psychologically and sexually
from the relationship though at
times the physical contact may
remain. Sabotaging a relationship
by accusing their partner of not
being sensitive enough to their
need for isolation is a common
With a failed sense of purpose to
such a relationship the
partner of the Avoidant (who pulls
away from contact) leaves
an unbearable void in the other's
heart. It might be truer to
say that an Avoidant who once
loved but cannot fulfill that
role any longer is an individual
who has the least reason
for doing so. If an Avoidant
deeply desires acceptance and
love but pushes those away who
have shown nothing but
patience ~ what is left? Numbness
and justification for having
ended a relationship will follow
as a quiet shadow but the
Avoidant will nullify any painful
loss to themselves or of
having caused at least that much
pain to the other. It isn't
because they have no feelings,
though on the surface, it
may appear this way. It's because
in order for the habit (the
associated feelings of avoidance)
to "survive" - they must
knowing healthy desire and love in exchange for
and lessening what they feel will drain the
their psychic resources.
It has been said that Avoidant
Personality Disorder is a chronic
condition of self-loathing
through self deprivation and in
essence much of this behavior has
become a comfortable
but lethal habit where
relationships are concerned.
Some with intimacy intolerance
are addicted to the "thought
of love and romance" but once
faced with the prospect will
pull away. Others may be addicted
to porn and or fantasy
which on every inhabitable level
will most certainly add an
even heavier layer of distancing
to any viable relationship
the Avoidant encounters.
AMBIVLENCE W/PAST ABUSE - General Observation:
Fortunately, with therapy and
support the person who has
love or sex addiction or intimacy
intolerance problems there
is much help. Many have found
that help using the 12 Steps
programs where they can talk in
relative anonymity about
their conditions in the company
of others who suffer from
Of all the conditions that
overlap with AVPD this is an area
that may be most treatable.
First, the Avoidant must see the
contrast between their fantasy
world and reality. They must
understand the conflict and how
the tension between the
two plays out in actuality. They
might be able to see a pattern
in all their relationships or
maybe in just in the area of
"love" relationships. Could there
be an environmental
component? What did they see
growing up? Were they
treated with respect or were they
domineered by one or
both of their caregivers? Were
they at any point in their lives
sexualized or abused by a family
member or other? Did their
their sexual identities evolve
appropriate in time scale
to their developmental age?
FEAR OF THE FAMILIAR
- WORKPLACE AND OTHER:
Workplace familiarity provides a serious issue for some with
Avoidant Personality Disorder. Even highly skilled or
educated Avoidants may have trouble keeping jobs if the
workplace doesn't provide a relative degree of autonomy.
(Higher Functioning Avoidants almost never have work related
issues: Look for upcoming articles on HFA's soon).
Being required to fit in or socialize with co-workers and
keep up with the office grapeline-politic can feel so
stressful that the individual quits. It's fairly common
amongst severely afflicted avoidants to never have gotten a
career off the ground due to the intense fear of looking
incapable or incompetent in performing their jobs. Scrutiny
of performance aside, many Avoidants will not withstand long
term exposure in any work environment EVEN when they have the
ability to perform their job duties. This is because the act
of showing up at a job every single day poses a threat
towards "non familiarity" or a need to NOT be known.
There can be also problems with
authority issues as certain
Avoidants will not do well
working close with a boss or
supervisor. This plays into the
area of 'over' sensitivity and
being judged or criticized by
another. It is more severe in
Avoidants who suffered from
unhealthy relationships with
parents especially where they
felt lorded over and discredited
in their expressions by the
adults in their life.
Other types of relationships an Avoidant can have is ONLINE
connections where the person has found some common ground
a mutual sense of support with other strangers. The internet,
for e.g., provides a buffer against intense vulnerabilities the
Avoidant might otherwise feel in real time - although it's been
reported that many feel so closely connected with their
online ID's that being in that world can also feel
Online support groups can have dynamics that
make it a challenge
for an Avoidant and so they
may secretly change their Identities so
that other users
aren't over familiarized with them.
Other "over or too familiar" situations can be when a person
must do a routine activity. Walking their dog, taking out the
trash, walking past a neighbors yard, going to classes, the
bank, store and one of the worst...getting a haircut can
create a challenge. It isn't unusual to hear an Avoidant
say they have changed hairdressers 4 times in a year. The
problem being that each subsequent act of "being seen" means
they have exposed themselves and are becoming more and more
*known* to others.
If the impression of every
Avoidant is shy and aloof there are
also plenty of 'friendly
Avoidants' ...that is to say, that these
types crave and manage topical
conversation well. They may
even talk so much (usually out of
anxiety) that the other
person finds it a little
off-putting. The pattern they then find
themselves in is: Saying too much
too soon and having put
aside the inner guard of distrust,
may reveal personal things that
they later regret having said.
The end result is that they're
mortified at their own deep need
to connect with other people
and then retreat back into their
shells of isolation with just
enough shame to remind them that
they never should have
ventured out to begin with.
BEING FOUND OUT & SHAME:
It is common for an Avoidant to feel intensely afraid of
being "found out."
Some may fabricate stories not for the sake of bragging but
to shield themselves against others finding out that their
internal lives don't match what society expects of them,
therefore it's not unusual to hear that some avoidants will
either avoid conversations where questions may be asked of
them or inflate the truth with an answer that seems
Avoidance of people, places or any situation where the
Avoidant fears embarrassment or being "found out"
becomes habited and entrenched. They don't like lying about
themselves and seldom do it but when they do, feel a sense
of shame and failure as though they studied for a lifetime to
get things right but then got a big F stamped on their paper.
This cycle of falsehoods is crushing to the Avoidant and with
time can actually create a barrier where they themselves no
longer recognize their own abilities, talents and skills.
Shame, then, is carried in the deepest parts of their being
and can bring about a great deal of pain for them.
It is also common for Avoidants
with a degree of physical
attractiveness to use this as
compensation for what they
otherwise are attempting to hide.
On the surface, they have
momentary surges of confidence
but beneath are trembling
and in fear of being found out.
Feels shame at not having met personal or professional goals
Avoids lengthy interactions with others and may lie in order
to cover over the reality of their situation.
May yearn for deeper relationships with people but fear of
being "found out" and an ongoing sense of shame keeps
potential relationships from forming.
TIME AND SPACE:
AvPD's with limited *functioning can begin to lose concept of
time and space. This is more intensified if the person also
has an overlapping OCD problem. For example, a non-working
Avoidant who spends all their time at home or in a room where
clutter and hoarding is a problem. Disorganization or
"organized chaos" can mentally break down the edges of time
and space. Additionally, Avoidants who
spend exorbitant amount
of time online or playing videogames
will habit themselves into a
blur of lost days when routines
don't demand interruption from others.
Fantasy realms are often the
landscape in which some Avoidants
will create. Daydreaming can
happen for minutes or hours where
the world is an alternate
universe of sorts. In it they can be who
they want, do what they want and
behave with more confidence
and self-assuredness. Often, they
will be someone others look up
to, have a beautiful or loving
relationship with a significant other and
their realities, in those moments
are suspended. Once they return
to the real world the pain is
intense and in their own view, life is
dull and limiting.
AVOIDANTS; ORIGINS AND COPING
Nature or Nurture
Often the question asked is what
came first: the AVPD or
other conditions that turned a
person into an Avoidant.
It hasn't been proven (yet)
whether or not AVPD is genetic
or in someway predisposed. On
observation alone a neutral
approach to the topic is
acceptable so that one doesn't become
entangled in partial data that
may only represent the few over
the masses. What has been implied
is that many with AVPD
are people whose self-concepts
were mutilated at tender ages.
It isn't unusual in the least to
hear that toxic and Dysfunctional
home environments existed or that
either one or both parents
were extremely detached from
their child and as a result the
child developed this coping
mechanism, that is, Avoidance.
Having said that, many with
Avoidant features will have had
fairly normal childhoods but
external factors such as events with
peers (bullying for example) in
school seemed to undermine and
throw off track the individuals
mental and emotional gait. Even
still there are others who grew
up unscathed but later as time
wore on found they did not have
vital emotive and communicative
skills. Lacking in this subjected
them to embarrassing situations in
which they found as intolerable
rejections from others.
We don't know whether someone is
born sensitive or if
sensitivity is learned and or
develops as a response to
painful slices at their core
identities. Since not all people
who've been abused end up
"Avoidant" it would be just as
equal to say that parents who
neglected to imbue their child
with strength and faith in
themselves could have had as much
impact on increasing sensitivity
levels as those who had
accomplished the same by verbally
and physically harming
Quiet detached parents do their
children no favors. It is pure
neglect at its' core and serves
to only disenfranchise the potential
of every child who looks to their
parents as a source of love
What did the child learn? The one
who developed Avoidant behavior
may have learned to be angry and
sensitive and fragile and moody.
Or they may have learned to push
aside their needs, wants and dismiss
all of their conclusions as
pathetic, silly and unappealing. Negative
projection is rapid throughout
most Avoidant behavior.
He or she may magnify their own
imperfections because this is
what was done to them by the
people who gave them their cues.
They may feel the need to 'defeat
the defeater' before something
wholesome has a chance to play
out and over react to what they
think are the judgments of
Unfortunately this is a form of
self-sabotage. If nobody else is making
the sensitive soul feel bad,
they'll do it themselves.
With this behavior some cross the
line or merge from Self sabotage
into manipulation. Often, this
isn't thought out but rather is a default
setting where the Avoidants
patterns set into motion one end of a
a social movement that quickly
(and sufficiently) proves the "wrong"
others are doing to them and ends
in a negative projection.
This kind of behavior isn't
exclusive to Avoidants at all and more likely
may be as a result of co-morbids
that accompany the Avoidant condition
but nonetheless, it is worthy of
noting. Perplexment and disgust is often
the end result as people will
eventually find they can't win with this kind
of sensitive individual.
LONELINESS AND ISOLATION:
Isolation and loneliness is
mostly a constant with the Avoidant.
Their need for safety and
solitary leanings can leave a wide
gaping void in their hearts. In
society, we are expected to be
social animals and anything less
is often seen as curious and
odd. Yet, many if not most
Avoidants truly yearn for close
connections to other people.
What should be noted; in reality
the severity the Avoidant person
feels might be amplified by the
fact that in today's society neighbors
rarely speak to each other. As
households become islands of their
own, society as a whole is
becoming more isolative and withdrawn.
Common everyday interactions with
non and family members seem
to be less occurring except
through technology; internet, chat, texting,
FB, twitter which allows humans
to stay a further distance. Physical
communication is not required and
participation is not mandatory.
It would seem that "avoidance" is
encouraged in our culture.
How then does it bode for the
future of Avoidant Personalities?
We are not to blame for what
society does as our avoidant
natures were either predetermined
or developed out of the
need to protect ourselves when
the margins of safety proved
very thin. But it is frightening
to think, as society shrinks from
itself, Avoidants are like that
of the lone polar bear; one of
survival seeking its' habitat; a
place of safety, of refuge but
the ice-sheet it sits upon is
melting from beneath it.
Avoidant individuals may have co-morbid factors due directly
to the underlying anxieties that many with AVPD will experience.
Poor self-esteem, self doubt and self-concept lends itself to
an Avoidant needing to fill a deep void with compensatory
soothing and the need to cope.
With others it may be directly related to having experienced
trauma in the form of: pain, abuse, abandonment and rejection
as a youth. Some behaviors, particularly those that fall into the
"compulsive" category developed
over time but usually begins
in the teenage years.
Anorexia and the AVPD
Overeating and Avoidant Behavior
Alcohol or Substance Abuse
Gaming and non stop online activities;
fantasy and daydreaming
Sex and or Porn addiction
Cutting, Skin Picking
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE ISSUES
Hoarding or clutter
Trichotillmania (hair pulling)
Clock watching or telling time
Ingesting of non food materials
Other obsessive and or addictive
Other Behaviors w/ anxious compulsive elements:
Obsessive Thinking and thoughts
Reading and cataloguing mass quantities of information,
data or literature. (Data mining).
Commonly (or sometimes) Overlapping with Avoidant Personality
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Highly Sensitive Personality
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Reactive Attachment Disorder
Dependent Personality Disorder
Highly Sensitive Person
Schizoid Personality Disorder:
Schizoid tendencies may be seen in some people with AVPD.
However, it's more likely that the intense Avoidant has
learned early compensation skills that have a learned affect
on detachment...and attachment styles.
Because Schizoids do "avoid" it can be confusing. A schizoid
personality can appear aloof and friendly and or charming at
the same time and is most perplexing to the onlooker. What
Schizoids are well versed at are appearances. They know if
they are to do well enough in life they must appear to be
open enough to substantive activities that involve other
people. This will normally take place at their jobs where
it's more acceptable to be less social - but can meet the
requirement of 'friendly enough' to pull it off.
What is understood is that Schizoids really don't feel the
need for close intimate relationships, rather, they do feel
at times the need to fill the lonely spaces in their quiet
worlds. They may invite relationships to connect with others
but will always keep a deep layer of emotional distance
between themselves and the other person. Because of their
ability to wholly disconnect, a person takes a big risk in
getting involved with the SPD. Often if a Schizoid feels
questioned about their emotional worlds they will feel
threatened and may act in a passive-aggressive way or
in a way that lets the other person know they have no
interest in engaging or exposing themselves to questions.
However, a common misconception is that Schizoids don't
"feel" pain. Pain is felt but their ability to empathize with
others is severely lacking. This is because the SPD
essentially is a self centered person where "pain" is
controlled and experienced more as annoyance, frustration and
sometimes anger rather than actual painful emotional
thoughts. If the SPD is at risk for feeling anything outside
his controlled world it is more energy than is worth it.
Others may not be worth the energy it takes to figure out
what the Schizoid should do to help make a situation better
for themselves or the other people in their lives.
If facing the loss of a relationship is evident the Schizoid
for example, will either place blame on the other person and
disown any personal responsibility or will relinquish his or
her *need* for said relationship any longer.
MANIPULATION AND NEGATIVE COMPENSATION: A NARCISSISTIC -
In other scenarios, A different kind with negative
compensatory abilities may vacillate and temporarily obtain
status which fills a hole of intense self-loathing.
The need to manipulate others in certain situations helps to
maintain their assertions and protects their projections. For
clarification purposes here, this person may only see
themselves 'characteristically Avoidant' when it is useful to
appear relational and empathetic of those they need to
These individuals have a deep desire to be known as
inspirational, expert, knowledgeable, persuasive,
compassionate and transparent. It can be said this type of
person is only as Avoidant as the time they spend in the hole
of their own *self-loathing since the extremes on either side
of this chasm have at their root, an agenda.
The element of their projective status may be used in the
workplace, in intimate relationships, with family members and
with other Avoidants. In most cases when applied it is with
those they can sufficiently influence for a length of time
until the period of risk becomes obvious either to themselves
or to others who have picked up on their self-doubt or very
possibly the darker side of their personality.
It is usually very short-lived; the projection of having a
healthier mental status begins to dissolve from lack of
positive attention outside of themselves or a sense that they
can no longer filter what needs filtering, i.e. the mask
they've provided is no longer sufficient.
Negative Compensation; The Active Responses:
Wants to be noticed but is subtle about it.
Needs to impress or gain approval.
Experiences bouts of superiority.
Exhibits passive-aggressive behavior.
(It's not my fault, you are the problem).
Might be physically attractive and uses
attractiveness to their benefit..
May be an Academic, well-read.
May have desirable career skills.
Intensely self serving.
Vacillates between self hatred (low energy) and self
contained projection (high energy).
Does not appear to have classic AVPD but Avoidance is a by
product when status is at a lull or when depression is present..
(In a sense the SPD can be viewed either as being closest to
having more in common with the Narcissist OR the Avoidant. As
with many conditions there are often overlaps in traits).
By Avoidant Personality Disorder, Contributor - (Copyright)
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