Tag Archives: Treatments Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) Treatments.



As has already been discussed in part 1 and part 2, those suffering from avoidant personality disorder will generally endeavour to avoid social contact with others as a strategy to prevent themselves being rejected and rebuffed. Over time, others become aware of this aloofness, and, frequently, will likewise avoid him/her (this has been termed ‘reciprocal avoidance’).

Worse still, especially if young (at school, for example), s/he may attract the attention of bullies who may apply derogatory names to him/her (eg ‘loner’ etc) as they see him/her as an easy target and perhaps as too timid to stand up for him/herself. Adults, too, who suffer from AvPD, may be similarly discriminated against, albeit often in a more subtle manner.

Those with AvPD often find themselves trapped within a vicious cycle : his/her withdrawn and aloof behaviour leads to others not being well disposed towards him/her, this in turn leads to lowering the self-esteem of the AvPD sufferer further, which, in turn, leads to further withdrawn behaviour…and so on…and so on… As the cycle continues, the problem becomes increasingly intensified.

Because the person with AvPD is hypervigilant for any possible signs of rejection, as well as being hypersensitive to such, this can often lead to him/her perceiving rejection where none, objectively speaking, exists; or else s/he may greatly exaggerate and magnify minor signs of rejection. In the mind of the person with AvPD, any signs of rejection are deeply personal – they see the perceived rejection as confirming the ‘fact’ that they are a bad and worthless person. They assume that the perceived rejection is based on an in-depth and accurate analysis of their personality (whereas, in reality, it is much more likely to be due to superficial reasons, because the perceived rejector is in a bad mood, or for any number of reasons that are not personal in relation to the person with APD.

It has been pointed out by the psychologists Millon and Everly that conditioning is at play in the development of AvPD; specifically, a type of conditioning known by psychologists as NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT. A behaviour which is NEGATIVELY REINFORCED is one which becomes associated with avoiding an undesirable outcome. In the case of the individual with APD, the behaviour which is negatively reinforced is aloofness as it can help the individual avoid the undesirable outcome of rejection. The more a behaviour is reinforced in this way, the more ingrained the behaviour becomes.


3 types of treatment available for AvPD are :

1) Behaviour Therapy

2) Family Therapy

3) Medication

Let’s briefly look at these in turn :

1) Behaviour Therapy – this form of therapy involves the therapist encouraging the person with AvPD to interact with others in social situations for longer and longer periods of time whilst giving him/her support, encouragement and positive reinforcement.

2) Family Therapy – in part 2 of this article I described how the development of AvPD might be contributed to by the sufferer having been ‘infantalized’ by his/her parents. If this is suspected to be the case, family therapy may be appropriate.

3) Medication – doctors sometimes prescribe anti-depressants to those suffering from AvPD which can help reduce the anxiety contributing to the condition.


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