Avoidant personality disorder

Alternative names 
Personality disorder - avoidant

Avoidant personality disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by a lifelong pattern of extreme shyness, feelings of inadequacy, and sensitivity to rejection.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Personality disorders are lifelong patterns of behavior that cause problems with work and relationships. The cause of avoidant personality disorder is unknown.


People with avoidant personality disorder form relationships with others only if they believe they will not be rejected. They are preoccupied with their own shortcomings. Loss and rejection are so painful that these individuals will choose loneliness rather than risk trying to connect with others.

Signs and tests

Some common signs of avoidant personality disorder include:

  • Easily hurt by criticism or disapproval  
  • Has no close friends  
  • Reluctant to become involved with people  
  • Avoids activities or occupations that involve contact with others  
  • Shy in social situations out of fear of doing something wrong  
  • Exaggerates potential difficulties


Antidepressant medications can often reduce sensitivity to rejection. Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive/behavioral approaches, may be helpful. A combination of medication and talk therapy may be more effective than either treatment alone.

Expectations (prognosis)

People with this disorder may have some ability to relate to others, and this can be improved with treatment.


Without treatment, a person with avoidant personality disorder may become resigned to a life of near or total isolation.

Calling your health care provider

See your health care provider or a psychiatrist if shyness or fear of rejection overwhelms your ability to function in life and relationships.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Harutyun Medina, M.D.

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