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Avoidant Personality Disorder vs. Social Anxiety

Compared to other forms of mental health issues, very little research has been done on avoidant personality disorder, which is why little to no data is available on it for reference. The few relevant studies done on it reveal that an estimated 1.5 to 2.5% of people in the United States suffer from avoidant personality disorder, although the same study also indicated that the incidence of the condition could be anywhere between 0.8% and 9.3%. The similarity between the traits of this condition with other issues affected by social components is actually quite close. This is why more people are now trying to determine the likelihood of avoidant personality disorder vs social anxiety as the source of their dislike of social settings.

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

avoidant personality disorder treatment Avoidant personality disorder belongs to the group of mental health conditions known as personality disorders. Typically, these disorders are enduring patterns of behavior that cause emotional pain or distress for the individual who has it and to those around them. This condition is characterized by feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy, and sensitivity to almost any form of criticism and rejection.

This fear of rejection and criticism is primarily what makes this condition so emotionally damaging to those who have it. Individuals with this condition would still like to interact with others, but they tend to avoid social interaction because of intense fear. This causes significant problems that affect their ability to interact with others, maintain relationships, and handle normal functions in day-to-day life.

What Traits Set Avoidant Personality Disorder Apart from Other Disorders?

Personality disorders are typically categorized into clusters, and avoidant personality disorder falls under the cluster C group. The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a number of diagnostic criteria for this condition, including:

  • Persistent and intrusive feelings of stress and apprehension
  • Pervasive belief in being socially inept, unappealing to others, or apparent inferiority compared to others
  • Excessive concerns about real or imaginary criticism from others
  • Intense fear of being rejected in social situations
  • Unwillingness to get involved with people unless they are absolutely certain of being liked
  • Pervasive need for security that interferes with daily life and activities
  • Constant avoidance of social or job-related activities that involve significant interaction with others
  • Reluctance to try new things or take personal risks due to fear of failure and embarrassment

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is rather common in the US. Data released by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. It states that social anxiety disorder affects 7.1% of the US population or around 15 million adults. Social anxiety disorder is also known as social phobia, as it is specifically triggered by instances where the person with the disorder is exposed to a social situation, such as crowded places or a room with people.

The symptoms of social anxiety disorder typically come out in situations where the person with the condition may feel like they will be scrutinized, evaluated, or judged by others. Examples of this include speaking in public, meeting new people, going on a job interview, or doing a presentation in class or at work. Everyday things which most people take for granted, such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public restroom, may become terrifying for someone with a social anxiety disorder.

Much like other disorders that involve psychological and emotional aspects, people with social anxiety disorder feel their reaction to social situations is beyond their control. This feeling of not having control over their fear is more than enough to get in the way of functioning at work, performing at school, or doing everyday activities. While there are those who are still able to muster enough will to accomplish these activities, they do so with great fear and anxiety.

How are Avoidant Personality Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder Treated?

avoidant personality disorder and social anxiety Both avoidant personality disorder and social anxiety disorder are primarily treated with psychotherapy in Maine, mostly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). During CBT, people with mental health issues learn how to identify and change the destructive thought patterns that have a negative influence on their behavior and emotions. As both conditions also come with symptoms that could become unmanageable or quite harmful at times, medication typically prescribed for anxiety-related issues is also given to people who have these conditions.

There is a need to note, however, that personality disorders, avoidant personality disorders included, have no real cure to this day. All that could be done is to help the person manage and reduce the symptoms to allow them a measure of normalcy in their lives.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an approach that combines cognitive therapy with behavior therapy to identify maladaptive patterns of thinking, emotional responses, or behaviors. This approach also seeks to replace these aberrant thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with more desirable patterns. This psychotherapy form focuses on changing the automatic negative thoughts that could contribute to or even worsen a person’s emotional difficulties, depression, and anxiety.

CBT is based on the premise that a person’s thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are interconnected. Certain negative thoughts and feelings can keep a person looped in a negative cycle where these thoughts and feelings feed off each other and make things worse. As many of these thoughts are interconnected and therefore complicated to a certain extent, CBT can help by breaking them down into smaller parts that would be easier to understand and process.

Cognitive behavioral therapy in Maine has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse issues, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. The sheer number of issues that CBT has been used to treat could even signify that this treatment form is more effective than other forms of psychological therapy in dealing with a variety of conditions.


Mental health issues that typically include symptoms of depression, altered thought patterns, and sudden mood swings are mostly treated with either antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or antipsychotics. These medications do not address the condition itself but help in lessening the more severe symptoms that come with the condition. Medications are particularly helpful when symptoms that involve self-harm or destructive behavior become exceptionally uncontrollable.

As studies into these types of disorders are still quite few, researchers are still trying to determine if medications serve to actually help in mitigating and lessening the symptoms of these conditions, or are merely stifling them for a time and not really doing any real good by way of treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder?

The symptoms of avoidant personality disorder have actually been detected in children as young as two years old, which makes the condition even more difficult to diagnose. Certain factors such as long-term abuse or environmental factors don’t really count for much since the one with the condition is far too young to be immersed in external influences that might have caused the condition.

The symptoms of avoidant personality disorder include:

  • Social inhibition
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Sensitivity to criticism or rejection
  • Avoidance of any situation that might involve interpersonal contact
  • Unwillingness to interact with others unless certain they will receive a positive response
  • Hesitancy or complete avoidance of intimate relationships
  • The constant expectation of criticism or ridicule in social situations
  • Feeling inadequate and being inhibited in new social situations
  • Perception of self as inept, unappealing, and inferior
  • Reluctance to take risks for fear of failure
  • Refusal to engage in activities that might result in embarrassment

What are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder?

Many mistake social anxiety disorder with commonplace or extreme nervousness. The difference lies in the fact that social anxiety disorder includes fear, severe anxiety, and avoidance behavior that interfere with relationships, daily routines, work, school, or other activities.

Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Fear of situations where there is a chance to be judged negatively
  • Worry about being embarrassed or humiliated
  • Intense fear of interacting or talking to strangers
  • Fear that others will notice the prevailing anxiety
  • Blushing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Uncontrollable trembling
  • Shaky voice
  • Avoiding interacting or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoidance of situations where there is the possibility of being the center of attention
  • Anticipation of something always going wrong
  • Constant self-analysis following an interaction
  • The expectation of the worst possible outcome in any experience or social situation

Casco Bay Can Help You With Your Personality and Anxiety Disorders Today

avoidant personality disorder and social anxiety difference

Understanding is the first step in any kind of treatment. This is why we here at Casco Bay, take extra care to understand as much as we can about a person’s issues and troubles so that we may find the most suited treatment form for the condition. In many cases, understanding a person could very well be the best thing that has ever happened to them, and this could be the very key to starting them on the road to their recovery. Let us get you on your path to recovery.

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