Social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder are often mixed up. The mix-up arises from the fact that both are characterized by extreme fear of social interactions and avoidance of the same. Avoidant personality disorder vs social anxiety mix-ups and confusion also arises because a patient may have been diagnosed as having both conditions.
Even with a diagnosis for both, the two have different roots. Social anxiety is driven by a fear of being shamed or embarrassed while avoidant personality disorder is rooted in negative self-evaluation made in comparison to others. A big part of this is low self-esteem. It drives those with the disorder to believe that others will reject them sometimes to a paranoid extent.
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What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 12 percent of adults experience social anxiety. The type of anxiety disorder affects not only adults but also teens.
It causes fear of social interaction that makes those who have it avoid social interactions. The fear is related to being afraid of saying or doing something embarrassing that would cause them to be judged negatively.
Social anxiety makes the fear of it happening so extreme that it affects day-to-day life. They make plans around avoiding potentially embarrassing situations even though there is very little chance of them happening.
Different people experience social anxiety differently. Some continuously worry or think about past events that they did or could have embarrassed them. Others get physical symptoms every time they go out. This may be a racing heartbeat, quick breathing, excessive sweating including on the palms, or dizziness among other symptoms.
What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder?
Avoidant personality disorder, on the other hand, causes one to feel completely inadequate. It also causes extreme sensitivity to rejection and being socially inhibited. This disorder is classified along with personality disorders that cause feelings of fear and anxiety.
This personality disorder stems from a lack of self-esteem. Those who have it believe that people don’t or wouldn’t like them so they avoid social interactions. There is also a fear of criticism and in others fear of being rejected. It is not uncommon for what is said to them to be construed as criticism even when it is not.
Approximately 2.5 percent of the population has this personality disorder. This is according to the DSM-5. This disorder is all about avoidance and this includes avoiding seeking the help of therapists so the percentage may be higher. It is also because of avoidance that this disorder can lead to depression that can lead to a whole other set of mental problems.
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Treating Social Anxiety Vs. Avoidant Personality Disorder
There is no absolute cure for personality disorder and anxiety disorder. However, it is possible for symptoms to be improved so that those who have them can build and maintain healthy relationships.
An avoidant personality disorder is pervasive and enduring. However, those who have it mostly want healthy, close relationships which can motivate them to seek help and stick with a treatment plan. The same is true for those who have social anxiety.
An avoidant personality disorder is primarily treated with psychotherapy. Psychodynamic therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are the two forms of it that are often used. Psychodynamic therapy involves delving into the unconscious factors that cause feelings of inferiority. This helps with resolving conflicts from the past that may be affecting the present life.
With CBT, the focus is on identifying and modifying a person’s beliefs and behaviors. The goal with this form of therapy is to free them of what goes on in their mind in the present at the thought of or while actually interacting with people. Training in social skills also works.
During the course of treatment using CBT, a patient is encouraged to expose themselves to situations that cause anxiety. This is done gradually with the goal of learning to stay in the present, realizing the cause is perceived rather than real, and getting on with social interactions.
Another form of therapy, schema therapy is also effective. It involves guiding a patient through identifying schemas that are maladaptive thought patterns and frameworks. The goal is to change them.
An avoidant personality disorder is not treated with medication. However, antidepressants may be prescribed to treat anxiety or depression if it keeps recurring or is long-term. Medication may also be prescribed to patients who have severe anxiety along with having an avoidant personality.
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Getting the Help You Need
If you or a loved one has symptoms of one or both disorders, get help. The mental health experts at Mango Clinic are available to offer those with these and other personality and anxiety disorders the help they need. You will experience an accurate diagnosis made by our team of mental health experts. You can either walk in for a consultation or make an appointment online. Either way, get the help you need and start living the life you deserve filled with happy, healthy relationships. Get in touch today.