Avoidant Personality Disorder?

For over 2 years now, I’ve suspected that my SA and depression may actually be symptoms of an even bigger problem – avoidant personality disorder (AvPD). I know that I shouldn’t self-diagnose, especially when it comes to a personality disorder, and that it’s debated as to whether AvPD and generalised social anxiety disorder are even separate conditions, but I do seem to have much in common with AvPD sufferers and often feel that there is something bigger than my SA holding me back. I could start seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist again (something I feel I need to do anyway) and ask them about this but mental health professionals here tend to not tell you or anyone else what you’ve actually been diagnosed with. And to be honest, I’d be surprised if any of the CMHT ‘professionals’ are actually knowledgeable enough to diagnose things like that, given that none of the people I’ve ever seen were particularly knowledgeable about social anxiety disorder, and I was also, I strongly believe, misdiagnosed with Asperger’s when I was seeing a psychiatrist from CAMHS (this was later confirmed when the second, adult assessment showed that I lack the ‘triad of impairments’ needed to make that diagnosis). It seems so different in countries like the US but I think I prefer not having a bunch of labels, and I definitely prefer not having to pay for treatment that might not even help me (though I’m guessing that mental health services in countries where you have to pay are much better than the NHS – or the National Heap of Shit, as I‘ve often thought it should be called, when dealing with mental health ‘professionals’ who clearly don’t have a clue what they’re talking about – mental health services, which are, in my experience, about as much use as a chocolate teapot. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck, I don’t know). So I will just say I have many avoidant features that I think are even more important to work on than the SA if I ever want to have offline friends or be in a relationship.

Like I said, lately I’ve been feeling that I should maybe give seeing a psychologist another go to work on those issues, but any significant progress I’ve made with my SA has been completely on my own. In fact, I often found that seeing professionals who didn’t understand SA just makes me feel even more depressed and hopeless. But I have no idea how to overcome the avoidance issues without the help of a professional. I have no idea where to even start.

When I say avoidant issues, it’s a bit difficult to mention everything that entails in just one post, but there will be a lot mentioned about this in some of my upcoming posts. In essence though, I have a massive fear of rejection and seem to be preoccupied with the possibility/ inevitability (as I see it) of being rejected. Even the tiniest little thing that someone says or does can make me feel that they are rejecting me and that they hate me. For example, if I’ve made plans with someone but they have to cancel suddenly, my mind will automatically assume that they hate me and don’t want to spend time with me, and that spending time with me just annoys them. Even the tiniest thing that someone says in a conversation or does/ doesn’t do – things that other people would probably just brush off or not even think about for a second – can end up causing me a lot of distress. To use an example from yesterday, my Swedish online friend and I were on skype, and voice chatted for a bit (I’ve managed to speak a lot, at least for me, the last couple of times I’ve decided to use voice chat – I can usually barely say a couple of words), but then he suddenly had to go. Despite knowing this, I automatically interpreted the abrupt ending to the voice chat as a sign that he thought less of me/ no longer liked me because of how awkward I am. My mind translated that single thing into: “I think you’re a weirdo and hate you and no longer want to be your friend”. My negative thought process just snowballed from there into: “Everyone will reject me in the end because I’m such a weirdo and rubbish friend. Everyone hates me. I always mess everything up. I will never be accepted by anyone. Friends/ people always reject me in the end. I’ll always be alone. I can’t trust anyone. What’s the point in living if everyone will only hurt me and leave me in the end?” Yes, I know it sounds really stupid. I really wish I was exaggerating but I’m not. That’s just how my mind works. I know I probably sound like a massive weirdo/ nutcase right now.

I find it extremely difficult to trust people and I always take criticism personally. If someone makes a comment about me, I always seem to interpret it in the most negative way. I often also feel that other people hate me and can’t stand to be around me, which is probably a result of being bullied. I was genuinely surprised when a couple of people I worked with at the mail sorting centre were friendly towards me and didn’t seem to mind being around me. I’ve met up with my befriender three times now and I feel sorry for her that she has to give up some of her free time to spend time with me. I feel that my awkwardness and weirdness must really annoy/ offend her. I haven’t really been able to open up to her yet. I find it extremely difficult to open up to anyone. I can never let anyone in and I feel that this the main reason as to why I can’t make friends, rather than my SA alone. I haven’t had a close offline friend in almost 8 years and I can never seem to get past the acquaintance stage with people. I’m too afraid to get any closer than that because I’m sure that they’ll reject me as soon as they realise what a weirdo I am. I’ve ended up sabotaging potential friendships (for example, with the woman who used to drive me to uni, through making no real effort to stay in touch with her) a couple of times before because it’s so much easier than the pain of rejection and I feel it’s not even worth the anxiety it puts me through. I know that’s not fair on the other person and I always feel even more awful about myself for doing that, but I can’t really understand why anyone would want to get close to me/ be my friend anyway. I feel I’m doing them a favour by not wasting any more of their time. Online friendships are bit different because there is distance involved, it’s less direct, and being rejected online is often less painful than being rejected face-to-face. I can also always just log off the computer if I feel uncomfortable. I think this is why I only seem to be able to make friends through the internet now. And even then, all the online friendships I’ve ever had have been initiated by the other person.

When it comes to friendship, I’m either very attached to someone or not attached in the slightest. There isn’t really an in-between for me. I think I maybe get more attached to close friends than most people (probably because friends are such a rarity for me and therefore very important to me) and that’s why being rejected/ the possibility of being rejected hurts me so much. I worry that if I was to ever get into a relationship, this would be even worse. I worry that I’d just end up annoying the hell out of the guy I’d be in a relationship with, by frequently asking him if my negative automatic thoughts about what he’s thinking matches the reality of what he’s thinking. No one deserves to have to deal with that kind of annoyance/ insecurity in their girlfriend. I have so much about myself to fix but I don’t have a clue how. I’m aware that I probably sound like a deranged weirdo to anyone who has just read this post.

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9 Responses to Avoidant Personality Disorder?

  1. Sarah says:

    Don’t know how much this’ll reassure you but you don’t sound weird, you sound like me. 😀

    What is the difference between social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder? I’ve tried looking it up multiple times but I’m still confused.

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks. I really hope that it is just severe SA as there’s a better chance of reducing/ overcoming that, I think. But I do often wonder why I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember and I’m just wondering if this is a possible explanation for that.

      It is rather confusing and it would seem that AvPD is a more severe and more deeply ingrained form of generalised social anxiety disorder. They are very similar. I think the main difference though (and this is just my own interpretation of it from the reading I’ve done on it), is that AvPD revolves around rejection while SA revolves around the fear of embarrassing or humiliating oneself. And when it comes to human relationships, the former is even worse than the latter for me. It’s difficult for me to work out if some of the things I do and some of the thought processes I have are common in other SA sufferers or not. I’m not sure if other people with SA push away potential friends due to fears of rejection/ that person getting more close than is comfortable. I don’t know if other SA sufferers obsess over rejection and think that everyone hates them from a simple look or something spoken/ not spoken in a conversation.

  2. Sarah says:

    I freely admit, I am not very knowledgeable with this, are personality disorders always there? The day you were born to the day you die? That’s why you’re wondering if you have one? Although, I’ve heard that social anxiety could be genetic, too. (Sorry if I’m not making sense. 😛 ) What I mean is, you could just have severe social anxiety (I’ve got that, too) because it could be genetic. So, that could be why you’ve had it forever.

    I fear rejection for sure. And humiliating myself, but I think that just leads to “rejection”. Like if I “screw up” somehow, people will see me for who I really am and then want nothing to do with me. I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely over think one look from someone. I think about it way too much. 😦 I don’t think I push anyone away, at least not intentionally. But never visiting them might make them forget about me. Maybe that is me pushing them away?

    But, how severe is /more/ severe anyway? Complete isolation? Severe dependence on family members? (I don’t mean you, I mean in general.)

    • Sarah says:

      Aaaand, I totally meant to reply to your comment. *derp* *bear*

      • Gemma says:

        Whether or not personality disorders are something that a person is born with or something that they develop due to their environment/ early life experiences seems to be debatable. I know that my social anxiety could be genetic but there’s only one other person in my family (that I know of) who experienced (mild) SA (my paternal aunt as a teenager) but no direct relative seems to have experienced this. My dad and his two siblings seemed to go through phases of mild SA in their teenage years, but as I say, no one in the whole of my extended family (that I’m aware of) suffers/ has suffered from severe, chronic, and disabling SA like I do. So in my case, I very much doubt that it’s purely genetic. Genes can be switched on or off depending on environmental conditions, but I don’t think my environmental conditions growing up were drastically different from that of my dad or his siblings. I was bullied relentlessly in high school but (although this played a big factor in worsening the SA and also in the development of my depression) I was socially anxious long before then. So unless something major happened in my very early childhood, that I have no memory of (which seems unlikely), I really don’t understand what caused me to develop/ be born with SA. Perhaps it’s simply down to luck.

        I agree that avoiding things because of rejection usually just leads to rejection anyway. But that’s why I try not to let people get close to me unless I really feel that I can trust them. It’s ridiculous how much ‘mind-reading’ I do from a single glance by another person sometimes.

        I’m not sure. I think it’s difficult to define. I think people with AvPD struggle with a wider range of things than people with SA do though.

      • Sarah says:

        Crappy luck lol. It’s confusing a lot, trying to figure it out. Addiction and depression apparently run in my family but not social anxiety as far as I’m aware. My father told me that he felt it when he was younger and that he’s still shy which shocked me. My sister has social anxiety as well, but I don’t know if we both have it because of genetics or our childhood.

        Yeah, “mind reading” is the worst thing ever. If someone looks me up and down, immediately my alarms go off like, ‘OH NO. What did they see?’.

        Sorry if I’m bugging you with all the questions, but what do you mean? Like social anxiety in every situation or something more than social anxiety?

  3. Gemma says:

    I think that people with AvPD have even more difficulties with relationships/ friendships than people with SA do. When I went along the SA meet up groups, there were loads of people there who still had friends and even a boyfriend/ girlfriend. I have no idea how. My anxiety is so bad that it makes friends/ relationships impossible. I think another difference is that for someone with SA, it’s generally very difficult to make friends or pursue a relationship at first, but that person is fine once they get to know that person and feel able to trust them, Whereas for the AvPD sufferer, the feelings of doubt and inevitability of rejection are always there, no matter how close they get to someone. People with AvPD are also often reluctant to do new things. But as I say, I’m not an expert. Perhaps those people at the meetup group simply have less intense SA than I do.

  4. OnlyMe says:

    hi, I’ve turned 28 this month, I’m feeling that as i go near 30 i need to be more social, more with women than men.
    so i have decided to go to art school, as that’s something that starting to like, and i will be with other people that also like it, so a good place to meet people.
    but as the time approaching, the pressure builds up and up and i just gave up.
    phew what a relief 😦
    i couldn’t care less about the grades and the degree itself as it’s an art degree. the social aspect was what i was looking for.
    maybe I’m just not social person ? i love to be by myself, but i also long for an intimate relationship with a woman that will love me.
    i feel that I’ve lost all my chances at my youth, and the time to start building a family is slipping by me 😦

    • Gemma says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your situation. I can relate to many of the feelings you described, though in my opinion, at 28, you still have plenty of time to find someone and start a family. I know that probably doesn’t help. The only advice I can offer is that very gradual exposure therapy is what has worked for me. It can be extremely tough to force yourself into the situations that terrify you (which is why it has to be done in baby steps) but exposure therapy is the one thing that has really helped me. I’m afraid I can’t really offer you anything else except my sincere sympathies/ empathy. You’re welcome to email me if you ever feel that you need to talk to someone who understands what it’s like to have social anxiety.

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