According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders handbook, avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) affects persons who display a pattern of social inhibition, often considering themselves to be socially inept, which is why they avoid social interaction for fear of being rejected, ridiculed or humiliated. They are also extremely sensitive to negative feedback and evaluation, and feel inadequate and inferior. Passive aggressiveness is a form of avoidant personality, which helps define the disorder.
Causes of AvPD
It is unclear what causes avoidant personality, as it may be influenced by a combination of genetic psychological and social factors. It is also associated to temperamental factors that are inherited. But people with the following past experiences, or childhood antecedents, are at high risk of developing AvPD:
- Anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence.
- Childhood emotional neglect, such as rejection of one or both parents.
- Peer group rejection.
Signs and Symptoms
- Self-imposed social isolation
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Severe low self-esteem
- Hypersensitivity to rejection or criticism
- Highly self-conscious
- Mistrust of others
- Associates physical contact to unpleasant or painful stimulus
- Feeling inferior
- Agoraphobia, in extreme cases
Moreover, people with avoidant personality use fantasy to escape or interrupt painful thoughts.
The American Psychiatric Association Defines The Avoidant Employee As The Following:
- Avoid activities at work that involve significant social contact.
- Unless they are certain that they will be liked, they will not get involved with others.
- They are consistently afraid to be involved in Intimate Relationships.
- They are constantly in fear of being rejected and criticized in Social settings.
- Feelings of inadequacy fuels inhibitions in new social settings.
- Avoid taking risks for fear of being criticized embarrassed or ridiculed.
- This is why most people with avoidant personality disorder would choose jobs where they are often isolated, and there’s less interaction with the public.
In his book Personality Disorders in Modern Life, psychologist Theodore Millon identified four adult subtypes of AvPD, one of which is the conflicted avoidants. This subtype includes negativistic features characterized by fear of dependence, hesitation confusion, unresolved angst, paroxysm, bitterness, and torment. They suffer internal discord and dissension.
This type of personality disorder causes a patient to long for intimacy, while fearing the vulnerability that comes with this kind of relationship. People who are passive-aggressive, or those with a negativistic personality, tends to be ambivalent about themselves and others. The conflicted avoidant pattern would experience withdrawal tendencies, and express them in a manner that matches their idea of “interpersonal guerilla warfare”.
Behavior Of a Conflicted Avoidant
- Withdraw into isolation.
- Petulant and sulking.
- Attack those who fail to recognize their needs for love and affection.
- Accuse those who they recognize as a threat to their independence, even when nurturing is on offer.
- Feels unappreciated, misunderstood and demeaned.
- Impulsively hostile under slight pressure.
- Fails to orient thoughts and emotions logically.
Dealing With a Conflicted Avoidant
Relating to someone with this type of personality would require a huge amount of patience, what with the arduous process involved. It requires interpersonal strategy that helps treat the circular struggle of the avoidant.