Avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) is the “feeling of extreme social inhibitions, inadequacy and sensitivity of negative criticism and rejection.” That means they will often avoid work, school or any social situation that requires social interaction. This is a personality disorder, which may often be confused with a mental illness, but is not so.
N.B: This article is published as part of Sherlock Zone’s commitment to create awareness on mental health issues and remove the stigma associated with it. People who can relate to the medical conditions listed in the article are encouraged to come forward and seek professional medical help, anywhere in the world through the resources listed on this page http://blog.sherlockzone.com/mental-health-resources/.
AvPD may not be visible on the face of it but it surely does exist amongst us or within us.
Mental illnesses or personality disorders of any type can prove to be a great hindrance in a person’s quest to lead a normal life. Warped in thoughts of self-harm, suicide, depression, sadistic pleasure and anxiety, these characteristics are often seen in most mentally ill individuals or people with serious personality disorders.
People with an inability to accept societal change or face rejection, have a hard time making friends due to their continuous lack of self-esteem, thoughts of being judged negatively by people around them and increasing fear of society, are typical characteristics of an Avoidant Personality.
It is a chronic disorder that affects both genders equally. This type of a personality does not stem in a year or two but has a history of being subjected to negativity, continuous rejection, deprivation of things that they like, being judged by family members, etc.
When such a person usually gets married, they are usually not open about their feelings and live in constant fear of being rejected by a spouse/partner. This may make the relationship a little difficult to sustain and last.
What causes AvPD?
Early childhood experiences that may involve lack of affection or encouragement, dysfunctional or abusive environment, emotional neglect and a lower level of care corresponds greatly to a person with AvPD.
It starts in early childhood where children avoid social interactions completely, in fear of being rejected by their friends and peers, but comes to light only when they become an adult. This is the beginning of a person with an avoidant personality.
However, despite all this, it is not necessary that a person with AvPD has been necessarily subjected to an abusive or emotionally regressive environment throughout his/her lifetime.
What are the symptoms of an Avoidant Personality?
Since the symptoms may not seem so significant at the beginning, it is difficult to analyse the onset of this personality type. However, certain typical symptoms that may stand out are –
Extreme shyness in public forums.
Lack of confidence in interaction with people and the general public around.
Heightened anxiety may stem from fear of abandonment.
It has been observed that India tended to have higher prevalence estimates across most classes of personality disorder with a range of 0.4%–7.7%. This is, at times, seen to co-exist with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Borderline Personality Disorders (BPD) or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) personalities as well.
Although the symptoms may not seem very relevant, it is advisable that people with such lack of self-worth are consulted with a psychologist or psychiatrist. In many cases parents, who are aware of such symptoms, tend to ignore their child’s behaviour, leading the child to grow up feeling socially awkward.
Can an arranged marriage with an avoidant personality sustain?
Many times, people with an avoidant personality disorder, are not diagnosed on time and hence do not receive proper medication. They find it difficult to communicate their feelings or personal information with their partner or to-be partner, in fear of rejection. This causes extreme anxiety and depression. This makes it difficult for these individuals to maintain intimate relationships.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a person diagnosed with AvPD needs to show at least four of the following criteria-
Avoids interpersonal contact at work because of fear of disapproval or refusal.
Is reluctant to get close with people unless they are certain of being liked and is oversensitive to different social situations.
Shows inhibitions in intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or mocked.
Is worried about being disparaged or excluded in social situations.
Is subdued in new relational situations because of feelings of inadequacy.
Self-loathing especially due to finding oneself as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others.
Is oddly unwilling to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove disconcerting.
Generally mental illnesses and personality disorders are not taken in the right spirit in India. The usual tendency is to suppress it due to the stigma associated.
There are cases where the parents have been ignorant of their child’s mental stability and indulged in alternate methods of treatment like taking them to religious institutions to see if the ‘bad spirit’ can be castaway through prayers and blessings of holy men.
With people becoming more agile and knowledgeable, families have now started seeking professional assistance to conduct a pre-matrimonial investigation to assess the social and behavioural aspect of a prospective bride/groom.
Can a person with AVPD be medically treated?
Yes, avoidant personality disorder can be treated. It does take time and perseverance, and it does require using the proper methods, but it is doable and there are hundreds of documented cases that point this out.
With psychotherapy, their symptoms can be treated or resolved, which can help the person lead a normal and more fulfilling life. Anti-depressant or anxiety drugs/medication can help control their feelings of ineptness and prove to be effective in the long run.
Sherlock Zone discourages stigmatization of mental disorders.
Mental illnesses are suppressed in arranged marriages due to the stigma around it. If your spouse shows suicidal tendencies due to the mental illness, it is strongly recommended to inform police and keep records due to the legal issues that may arise later.
Mental diseases are quite complex, and people affected by them differ significantly in severity. Treatment for mental conditions is best evaluated by a mental health specialist.
Information provided here can only serve as an introduction to the subject and may help start a discussion with your healthcare provider.
Sherlock Zone obtains information from reliable sources; however, it does not make warranty as to the accuracy.