A DSM-5 Definition of Avoidant Personality Disorder

avoidant personality disorder

Avoidant personality disorder is especially prevalent in people with anxiety disorders, social anxiety in particular.

Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) is in the newest American diagnostic manual (DSM-5) characterized by impairments in two domains of personality functioning: self and interpersonal functioning.

With respect to self functioning, people with APD have a low self-esteem and a negative self-appraisal, which may provide excessive feelings of shame. They have unrealistic standards for interpersonal contact, i.e. they exaggerate the potential social costs, which makes them feel inadequate.

With respect to interpersonal functioning, people with APD are characterized by a preoccupation with, and a hypersensitivity to, others’ negative evaluations or criticism. They show a reluctance to get involved with people unless they are certain of being liked.

People with APD show detachment and negative affectivity, two pathological personality traits. The detachment is characterized by withdrawal from social situations, intimacy avoidance and anhedonia, i.e. deficits in the ability to feel pleasure. The negative affectivity is characterized by anxiousness, often in reaction to social situations (social anxiety).

They worry about the negative effects of past experiences, and they worry about possibly negative future experiences. They feel threatened by uncertainty, and they fear embarrassment.

The above-mentioned impairments in personality functioning, and personality traits, are relatively stable across time and situations, and the impairments are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment. This means that the impairments exceed what we consider as “normal” deviations (read more here).

At last, the impairments must not be solely due to the physiological effects of substances or a general medical condition (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Image: Gene Lin
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