Avoidant personality disorder is part of a group of personality disorders that can have a negative effect on your life. If you have avoidant personality disorder, you may be extremely shy, unlikely to speak up in a group, have trouble in school or relationships, have low self-esteem, and be very sensitive to criticism. 

About 2% of the U.S. population had avoidant personality disorder, and it is found equally in women and men. If you have this condition, others may describe you as shy, timid, sensitive, or isolated. You may lack confidence in yourself, and feel anxious in social situations or when you have to interact with people outside of your family. 


Avoidant personality disorder has several hallmark symptoms. While we all may feel shy or unsure of ourselves from time to time, if you have avoidant personality disorder you feel like that all the time. Some symptoms of avoidant personality disorder to look out for are:

  • Extremely low self-esteem and low feelings of self-worth
  • A tendency to hide, either in baggy, nondescript clothing or by staying in the background in social situations
  • An inability to form stable relationships with anyone outside your family circle
  • Being easily and extremely hurt by any type of criticism in any situation
  • Paralyzing fear of speaking in public places, like ordering food in a restaurant or speaking at all in front of strangers, classmates, or colleagues
  • Extreme reluctance to undertake new activities or try new things for fear of rejection
  • Excessive feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness about themselves and their talents
  • Overwhelming discomfort with work, school, or social activities in groups
  • Becoming preoccupied with being rejected, laughed at, or shamed in social or work situations
  • A fear of rejection that prohibits meeting new people or making new friends, even if you’d like to
  • An obsession with dwelling on any criticism, slight, ridicule, or rejection that has happened to them before, no matter how long ago it took place


Avoidant personality disorder doesn’t have one definite cause. A number of experiences and risk factors can make you more likely to develop avoidant personality disorder, including:

  • Having another mental health condition like depression or anxiety
  • A family history of depression, anxiety, or personality disorders
  • Childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect
  • Trauma including suffering an extreme incident of ridicule or rejection in childhood
  • Genetics, trauma, or a physical illness that alter your appearance beyond societal norms  


Avoidant personality disorder is very treatable. With the right combination of medication, therapy, and support, you can start breaking free of the symptoms of avoidant personality disorder.

Medication: Avoidant personality disorder often also occurs with other mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Medications that treat those disorders may help treat symptoms of avoidant personality disorder too. Find a doctor to talk to about medication. 

Therapy: Individual talk therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and other forms of therapy can help you learn to cope with avoidant personality disorder. See your options for therapy at Sheppard Pratt today.

Education: Learning more about your condition can help you be more aware of your potential triggers and learn new coping strategies. Our resource library can help.

Support: Support is important as you begin working on living with avoidant personality disorder. When you’re ready for it, your therapist might suggest that you consider a support group at Sheppard Pratt.