An anxious avoidance response pattern is normal, at least until it becomes what is called “Avoidant Personality Disorder.” That leaves you with the question;
What makes Avoidant Personality Disorder a disorder?
We all unconsciously seek to avoid situations that make us anxious. That makes sense, right? After all, why expose ourselves to a stressful situation if we don’t have to?
As children we learn to hide behind mom or dad to reduce our anxiety around other people and strangers, until we learn from experience how and who to trust.
But what does the child who is raised in a dysfunctional home learn?
When a child grows up in a home where there is abusive behavior, neglect or trauma, the child learns to avoid people or situations that may trigger stress and anxiety.
In families where there is a history of dysfunction there is usually a heightened anxious avoidant response pattern.
Symptoms Of Avoidant Personality Disorder
Anxious Avoidant response patterns become problematic when the behavior triggers problematic choices.
Example, Substance Abuse: I may choose to use food, pills, alcohol, sex, etc. to help me avoid feeling anxiety from things I can’t control like criticism, loneliness, rejection and financial problems, just to name a few.
A more healthy response might be to *assertively respond* to the painful words of others or to proactively work on solving situational problems like finances before they become chronic problems.
Remember, anxious avoidant response patterns are normal until they become a problem. When it becomes a problem is subjective.
If you are unaware that you are anxiously avoiding people, using substances to reduce stress and anxiety, and/or avoiding your responsibility to fix problems, you will not be motivated to make any changes.
However, if these habits become dysfunctional in a way that they affect your work performance, happiness in your relationships, and joy in life, then working with a cognitive–behavioral therapist to help identify and change problematic response patterns can help.
If you feel that you or someone you love may be developing symptoms of avoidant personality disorder and have any questions or would like to add additional comments please feel free to post them in the comments section below. I will be looking forward to responding to you.
Doug Fox LPC, MHSP, M.Div.