Tag Archives: Fear Of Rejection Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) Causes

AvPD causes

What Are The Main AvPD Causes?

Evolutionary psychology (the study of why behaviours evolve) explains in part the behaviour of those who suffer from AvPD. Our ancestors developed the ‘fight or flight’ response to things that they feared, and, as individuals with AvPD, at root, fear other people, they can become hostile to others (reflecting the ‘fight’ response), or do their best to avoid others (reflecting the ‘flight’ response). However, research suggests that ENVIRONMENTAL factors play a larger part in the development of AvPD than genetic factors (Millon and Everly).

Two main influences on the development of APD are :



Let’s look at each of these in turn :

PARENTAL REJECTION : according to research conducted by the psychologist Kantor, parental rejection is the environmental factor which is most strongly associated with an individual’s later development of AvPD. This is borne out by the fact that those who suffer from AvPD are far more likely than others to have experienced rejection; furthermore, their experiences of rejection have commonly been found to be particularly intense and frequent.

Parental rejection will often set up the mindset (either consciously or unconsciously) in the rejected individual which runs along the lines of : ‘If my parents can’t accept me, how can I possibly expect anybody else to?’ This can have a catastrophic effect upon the person’s self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. It will often, too, lead the individual to become profoundly self-critical, even to the point of self-hatred.

PEER REJECTION : if, when we are young, our home environment is rejecting, critical, hostile and undermines our sense of self-worth, but, on the other hand, outside of the home we have many experiences which are positively reinforcing to us (eg supportive teachers, friends or other social networks), the latter experiences may enable us to develop sufficient PSYCHOLOGICAL RESILIENCE to protect us from the worst emotional effects of our home-life.

However, if a young person is rejected not only by parent/s, but, also, by siblings and peer group, AvPD is far more likely to develop in later life, especially if the various rejections continue over a sustained period of time.

The experience of continual rejection and humiliation can lead to the individual internalizing others’ negative view of him/her (ie coming to see him/herself in the same negative light in which others appear to see him/her).

This leads him/her to become yet more self-critical and to feel even more inferior. These feelings of worthlessness lead to even greater withdrawal from others, and, thus, increases to an even greater extent the person’s loneliness and sense of isolation. In the mind of the person becoming increasingly cut off from society, the rejection by his/her peers seems to justify and validate the parental rejection. In the end, the individual may retreat so far from others that AvPD develops.




I briefly outline these two possible contributors to the development of APD below :

INFANTALIZATION : parents who infantalize their children (ie are overprotective and don’t let the child develop a sense of self-responsibility) may make it hard for that child, as s/he grows up, to relate to others outside of the family on equal terms. This may lead to the individual becoming regressive and/or dependent in extra-familial relationships.

TRANSFERENCE :  (‘transference’ refers to the psychological mechanism whereby we transfer a feeling we have for somebody close to us onto a different person. An example would be a person who fears his/her father later transferring that fear onto authority figures in general, such as their boss at work). Transference can lead to avoidance behaviour when the person with APD distances him/herself from others who remind him/her of someone s/he was afraid of as a child (usually a parent).

Part 3, the concluding part of this article on APD, looks at ways in which it can be treated.




David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma : Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD). Part 1.


AvPD childhood trauma

If our experiences of relationships in childhood are largely negative and painful, in extreme cases, we may develop social phobia as adults, or, in even more severe cases, avoidant personality disorder (AvPD).

What is AvPD?

APD is similar to generalized social phobia, but of greater intensity. The person who suffers from it tries to avoid social contact due to an underlying fear of being humiliated and rejected.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), which is a reference manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists to help in the diagnosis of mental disorders, lists the following symptoms of AvPD :

– a pervasive pattern of social inhibition

– feelings of inadequacy

– hypersensitivity to negative evaluation by others

– preoccupied with being criticized and rejected in social situations

– views self as socially inept, personally unappealing and inferior to others

– reluctant to take personal risks or engage in new activities which run the risk of embarrassing self

– avoidance of occupational activities that would involve a significant degree of social contact due to fear of criticism, disapproval or rejection

– reluctance to enter into intimate relationships fear of being shamed or ridiculed

Typically, AvPD starts to develop in early adulthood and it affects both males and females equally. Research by the psychologists Millon and Everly listed the main areas of functioning affected by AvPD in a person as :







Let’s briefly examine each of these areas in turn :

BEHAVIOR : this will usually be withdrawn and wary, sometimes hostility may be displayed towards those who attempt to be friendly. Tendency to reject others before they can reject him/her.

SPEECH : tendency to remain silent in company

INTERPERSONAL CONDUCT : tends to mistrust others which leads to difficulty forming relationships. In the case whereby a relationship is started, the person with AvPD will tend to keep the other person at a distance, be reluctant to share feelings or to become in any other way vulnerable. General avoidance of intimacy.

COGNITIVE STYLE : the term cognitive style here refers to the kinds of thought processes and thought patterns the person with AvPD tends to undergo in social situations. There is a tendency towards excessive monitoring of how others are reacting to him/her, with possible signs of rejection being constantly looked for, to which s/he is highly sensitive – in other words, the person with APD is HYPERVIGILANT for signs of rejection, and, because s/he is also HYPERSENSITIVE to such signs, will often detect them when, objectively, they do not actually exist.

AFFECTIVE STYLE : the term affective style here refers to how the individual with AvPD tends to respond emotionally during social interaction. S/he will tend to show little emotion in such situations due to fear that this will make him/her vulnerable to rejection and humiliation (Kantor et al). To others, the individual with AvPD may appear tense and anxious (Millon et al).

SELF-PERCEPTION : Individuals who suffer from AvPD tend to have low self-esteem, feel inferior to others, feel unworthy of being in a relationship, be extremely self-conscious and lonely. Furthermore, they tend to view any accomplishments they may have to their name as of little or no value (Millon et al).



David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).