Avoidant Personality Disorder

Teens with avoidant personality disorder are constantly thinking about what others think about them, and their shyness and inability to connect is so severe that it often prevents them from maintaining close relationships.

Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by withdrawing from social interaction out of fear and feelings of inadequacy. Unlike introverted personality traits, wherein individuals prefer smaller groups and rarely spend time in crowds, teens struggling with avoidant personality disorder actively fear social interaction. Teens with avoidant personality disorder are constantly thinking about what others think about them, and their shyness and inability to connect is so severe that it often prevents them from maintaining close relationships.

What Does Avoidant Personality Disorder Look Like?

  • Teens with avoidant personality disorder are paralyzed by social anxiety. They also lack the confidence and normal social skills to engage with others, because they’re afraid of embarrassing situations and rejection.
  •  This inability to interact can lead to issues with interpersonal interaction, the development of close relationships, as well as behavioral problems in most settings, such as work or school.
  • Strong feelings of inferiority.
  • Lack of social skills.
  • Problems with personal relationships.

The Different Types of Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder

While avoidant personality disorder is usually categorized as a more specific diagnosis of an existing personality disorder, there are four further subtypes often recognized, as per the studies and works of Theodore Millon. These four subtypes are:

Conflicted Avoidant – Characterized by people having an overall pessimistic outlook toward themselves, toward others, and toward life in general. This type of avoidant personality disorder has extremely negative views, particularly inward negative views.

Hypersensitive Avoidant – Characterized by people with such strong inhibitions that they lead to occasional paranoia. This type of avoidant personality disorder struggles with paranoid thought, constant tension, and a prickly attitude towards others highlighted by fear and terror.

Self-deserting Avoidant – Characterized by people becoming unaware of their own needs and desires, because they so incessantly concentrate on others. This type of avoidant personality disorder dangerously exhibits symptoms of depression and suicidal thought, accompanied by a lack of regard for oneself.

Phobic Avoidant – Characterized by people avoiding any type of situation or context that makes them uncomfortable. This type of avoidant personality disorder comes with very specific fears of the future, such as vividly imagining how a particular situation will fail and fearing that outcome the most.


What Are the Causes of Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Despite having similar symptoms and characteristics to social anxiety, cases of avoidant personality disorder are much rarer and much more severe, with thoughts and fears so far removed from what most people experience that it can be difficult for others to imagine or sympathize with the condition.

Rather than being characterized solely by fear, cases of APD struggle with extreme distortions of the self. Why APD occurs, however, is not always known. In most cases, causes are a blend of both biological and environmental factors, environmental in this case referring to experiences, memories, and lifestyle factors. Avoidant personality disorders most often develop in children with a history of physical and emotional abuse, or PTSD.

How Can I Help My Teen With Avoidant Personality Disorder?

As a friend or parent, your first task would be to learn more about your teen’s condition. Beyond learning basic terminology, discuss their condition with professionals and therapists who have been treating them.

It’s practically impossible to completely understand what it’s like to struggle with an avoidant personality disorder, but it’s easier to empathize and provide a healthy, healing environment when you better understand what’s going on inside your loved one’s head.

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What Types of Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatment Are Available?

Avoidant personality disorder can be a very volatile condition to treat, requiring a sensitive and specific approach based on a teen patient’s subtype, experiences, and individual factors. Most cases of APD are treated with a combination of therapy and medication, to combat individual symptoms such as depressive thinking or anxiety and fear.

Talk therapy is often very successful in helping teens with avoidant personality disorder. Different types of therapy help them overcome specific fears or come to terms with certain thinking habits, finding ways to oppose them. Therapy can also help them learn to interact with others. Teens with this disorder have strong misperceptions about who they are and how they’re perceived by others. Therapy can help teens deal with underlying issues, as well as feelings of low self-worth, fear of rejection, and fear of abandonment.

As teens recognize that they are valuable, and that their view of themselves is distorted, they can also establish new healthy habits and practices to enable them to engage with others. In this regard, therapy helps empower teens to start forming new healthy behaviors.

Medication is prescribed to help teens with various symptoms, including depression and anxiety. This is more commonly considered in cases where teens have been diagnosed with a codependent condition, such as a major depressive disorder. Usually, medication isn’t recommended as a long-term treatment, but rather as an effort to relieve symptoms to allow a teen to address their illness through therapy.

Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatment at Paradigm Treatment

Paradigm Treatment provides a place for teens to find healing. Yet unlike how the body is designed to heal by itself, the mind requires more rigorous assistance. A complex disorder such as an avoidant personality disorder is made up of several key symptoms, thought patterns, and problematic behaviors. Rather that addressing any single part of the problem, therapists at Paradigm Treatment engage each patient as a whole and tackle the issues together.

This holistic approach involves careful consideration towards a patient’s feelings and their relevance in treatment, including how the disorder manifests uniquely in each individual. Some people exhibit certain symptoms that, if treated, improve the condition entirely. For example: addressing post-traumatic stress and feelings of depression can alleviate low self-esteem and help someone counter thoughts of inferiority and fears of rejection.

Paradigm Treatment works with parents and professionals to provide teens with an environment conducive toward getting better, and living a healthier, more complete life.

Paradigm was a wonderful choice for our daughter/family because it worked at the root of her/our problems. They continually told us that her behavior (outburst, failing school, isolation, food and withdrawal) was just a symptom of a deeper problem. Paradigm was beautiful, clean and caring. I would highly recommend Paridigm to anybody looking to make a positive change in their child’s behavior.

– Tracie R.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder

There is often no single cause for an avoidant personality disorder, but rather a cascade of circumstances and conditions that come together to develop the disorder over time. Severe mental and physical trauma often contributes to APD, as does genetics – a family history of avoidant personality disorder signals a higher risk of developing the condition in response to bad childhood experiences, social embarrassment, and painful interactions with others.

It’s common for people to learn to adapt and cope according to what they’re feeling, even sometimes to extreme degrees. So truthfully, it may be possible for you to live with this disorder without ever getting teen avoidant personality disorder treatment.

However, this is a condition that grows worse over time. Rather than simply feeling more comfortable alone, people with APD develop severe symptoms of paranoia and depression, moving towards suicidal thought. We believe that it shouldn’t just be a question of whether you can live with it, but how well you can live. And we want you to live the most healthy, whole, and happy life possible.

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