Individuals with avoidant personality disorder struggle with a number of persistent symptoms that get in the way of having social relationships. In the United States, anywhere from 1% to 5.2% of the adult population suffers from avoidant personality disorder. However, many of these individuals continue to fight every day to have meaningful experiences, especially at work.
Individuals with avoidant personality disorder often describe themselves as extremely shy. In clinical terms, this shyness is referred to as extreme social inhibition, meaning that such individuals feel profoundly restrained, self-conscious and uncomfortable in social situations. At work, this can make it difficult for a person to communicate with colleagues, approach a supervisor about opportunities for upward movement or to even make small talk in the lunchroom. This often results in feelings of isolation or a lack of belonging.
Fear of Inadequacy
In addition to feeling shy, individuals with avoidant personality disorder also suffer from an overwhelming fear of inadequacy. In the workplace, this may mean that a person will always second-guess herself and her work, may delay submitting projects and reports and may avoid applying for promotions under the assumption that she won’t get the job anyway. Fear of inadequacy can lead individuals to believe that even small tasks are too much for them. In many cases, this turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy when an employee with avoidant personality disorder is fired for not executing his or her job responsibilities.
Sensitivity to Rejection
Another symptom of avoidant personality disorder is an intense sensitivity to rejection. Individuals who suffer from avoidant personality disorder often feel as though small suggestions for improvement are harsh critiques and judgments. At work, a performance review or simple request from a supervisor to correct a problem can result in severe hurt on the part of the individual with avoidant personality disorder. Repeated perceptions of rejection and criticism often lead to poor self-esteem.
Though individuals with avoidant personality disorder want to have relationships, they are faced with extreme inhibition and self-doubt that limit their day-to-day lives. However, with the help of a trained mental health professional, individuals with avoidant personality disorder can learn techniques for coping with their symptoms.
“Avoidant Personality Disorder” – National Institute of Mental Health. (2007).
“Avoidant Personality Disorder” – Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2014).