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Recently I have been trying to identify the differences between Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia and Avoidant Personality Disorder and thought I'd share my findings on here. Because I'm a nerd like that.

Apparently 20-40% of the people who have a Social Phobia will also have AvPD. In Martin Kantor's book called Distancing, the author describes the differences between Social Phobia and Avoidant Personality Disorder as a fear of performing certain tasks versus the fears which generally arise in the context of interpersonal relationships. A person with Social Phobia may fear such things as public speaking or eating out in public, but otherwise has fairly normal healthy close relationships. With Social Phobia they are withdrawing from interpersonal situations and not interpersonal relationships. With AvPD there is not only that fear of criticism, embarrassment, and rejection but also a fear of "flooding, depletion and acceptance". For example, an actor who may feel alive on the stage but is otherwise shy and withdrawn, hiding from friends and family when they call and not returning the messages that people have left for him. Even though ultimately what this person desires most are these close relationships.

This was definitely interesting for me to read. I've always wondered, especially, how so many people with Social Anxiety Disorder are still able to hold jobs without going.. completely.. insane! It boggled my mind, leaving me wondering if I'm "doing my social anxiety wrong" now too, lol. (You're supposed to be anxious around people, but not that anxious! :b ) Well now that I have read up a bit on AvPD things are starting to fall into place. One of my biggest difficulties in life is certainly on an interpersonal level, just dealing with people. I literally recoil from closeness even though it is the one thing I want most. Which leaves me wondering if my friends would even comprehend how much I truly value having them in my life when I must be sending out such confusing signals! I grasp at friendships, for a best friend. But as soon as they respond I quite literally panic. "Individuals with AvPD usually refer to themselves with contempt. View themselves as defective, unable to fit in with others, being unlikable, and being inadequate." This is only too true, anyone following my rocky history of friendships can see how I can feel this way! I am confused about what's going on inside me and I don't mean to but somehow keep pushing people away. It's hard for me to accept that by my very nature I can destroy perfectly good friendships, but at the same time it is a relief to know what's causing this and to perhaps figure out what I can do to avoid this pattern throughout the rest of my life with the friends who continue to stick by my side. In a way their patience, love, and understanding makes me even more afraid, because these are the friendships I definitely couldn't bear to lose!! :( My readings also bring up concerns as to how I will ever be able to go back to a normal job if this is as incapacitating as they say it is (and I'm beginning to realize it is)... At the moment I am exploring into alternative ways to bring in some cash of my own. To work around my limitations instead of incessantly running into brick walls and getting frustrated with myself. Just because I choose to avoid being around people in a work environment doesn't mean I am then a complete social recluse. I can still be social in other ways.. right? I just feel like I'm the only one who's thought of this. Even my therapist wants me to go back to my retail job which quite literally drove me insane. Am I the only one who thinks that going back would be a very bad idea?!?

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

* Hypersensitivity to criticism or rejection
* Self-imposed social isolation
* Extreme shyness in social situations, though feels a strong desire for close relationships
* Avoids interpersonal relationships
* Avoids physical contact because it has been associated with an unpleasant or painful stimulus.
* Feelings of inadequacy
* Severe low self-esteem
* Self loathing
* Mistrust of others
* Extreme shyness/timidity
* Emotional distancing related to intimacy
* Highly self-conscious
* Self-critical about their problems relating to others
* Loss of self-identity
* Problems in occupational functioning
* Lonely self-perception
* Feeling inferior to others
* Chronic substance abuse/dependence
* Investment in fixed fantasies (a belief or system of beliefs held by a single individual to be genuine, but that cannot be verified in reality.. :blush )

A chart of Avoidant Personality Disorder vs. Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder:
http://www.anxietyhelp.org/information/avpd_vs_sad.html
 

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The way I always viewed the difference is by severity, just as they do in the literature. Shyness--->social anxiety (specific)---> social anxiety (generalized)--->avoidant personality. Its good to finally hear what someone else thinks about it.
When it comes to your situation with working in retail I can understand your fear. I've always stood away from retail jobs because I dont think I can function in one, I'd be a mess. I know I dont fully understand your situation, but it seems to me that your therapist is trying to thrust you into a social situation, but doesnt seem to appreciate how difficult it is for you to work there again. I think you are very brave for having worked there in the first place, and if you've tried it and found out that it was too distressing for you, then dont go back into it. I dont want to go against what your therapist is telling you (even though I kinda am) but is there a more relaxing environment that you might be able to work in that wont cause you to go "insane"? Personally, I like working off the books. I really hope I was able to help...
 

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avpd

i'm avpd and i know exactly what your goin through with the whole job thing. i really appreciate your research for the first time i finally see a clear distinction between SA and AVPD
 
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