How Psychotherapy Helps People Overcome Avoidant Personality Disorder

Personality disorders exist as enduring patterns of behavior that can develop as early as adolescence. Someone affected by a personality disorder lives with an inner experience or perception of self and others that deviates from societal norms.

Shyness and feelings of inadequacy best characterize avoidant personality disorder. This disposition makes it extremely difficult to experience a genuine quality of life. Like any other type of disorder, avoidant personality disorder traits impact a person’s emotional balance, interpersonal functioning and sense of identity.

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, addresses the underlying issues and perceptions that drive avoidant personality disorder behaviors. As feelings of inadequacy account for much of what a person experiences, developing a healthy self-concept becomes the overall goal of psychotherapy treatment.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

treating personality disorders

Talking therapies are a great help for personality disorder treatment.

People living with avoidant personality disorder are especially sensitive to rejection, which for the most part drives their tendency to avoid interactions with others, according to the U. S. National Library of Medicine. An ongoing fear of loss and rejection lie at the heart of this condition to the point where a person may choose to be lonely rather than try to connect with other people.

Symptoms most commonly associated with avoidant personality disorder include –

  • Fixating on one’s shortcomings
  • Avoiding jobs that require ongoing contact with others
  • Keeps intimate partners at a distance
  • Thinks the worse when confronted with difficult situations
  • Feels inferior to others

Treatment Objectives

As personality disorders tend to develop in adolescence or early adulthood, people affected by avoidant personality disorder have developed ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior that become second nature over time. The overall goal of psychotherapy works to help a person overcome long-standing feelings of inadequacy and hypersensitivity in response to others.

Since this condition tends to leave a person isolated with a limited social support network, helping him or her feel more comfortable within interpersonal and social interactions is also a goal of psychotherapy. Ultimately, people suffering from this disorder desire affection and acceptance from others just like anybody else. Psychotherapy helps sufferers see themselves from a more healthy perspective in terms of being worthy of affection and acceptance.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

According to the Psychiatric Clinics of North America Journal, the cognitive behavioral therapy approach identifies three overall factors that support and reinforce avoidant personality disorder symptoms:

  • Destructive beliefs regarding self and others
  • Limited social skills
  • Environmental cues that trigger fear and anxiety responses

Cognitive behavioral therapy works towards restructuring a person’s perceptions of self and others by helping him or her replace avoidant-based belief systems with a sense of self worth. In the process, patients undergo behavior modification training that’s geared towards helping them feel more comfortable in social situations.

Schema-Focused Therapy (SFT)

Schema-focused therapy takes a more direct approach in addressing the actual patterns of thoughts and behavior that support avoidant personality disorder. This form of therapy works specifically with schemas, which are the mental structures or frameworks that drive maladaptive perceptions and behaviors in general.

Rather than target the belief systems involved, schema-focused therapy takes an emotion-focused approach to helping a person resolve the underlying emotional issues that keep avoidant-based “schemas” intact. In the process, feelings of self-acceptance and self-worth can develop naturally as these mental frameworks are deconstructed.


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