Avoidant Personality Disorder

Screen shot 2012-07-10 at 11.11.15 AM
Screen shot 2012-07-10 at 11.11.15 AM

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I grew up with a father who is bipolar (which for finical reasons I am currently living with) and I feel I have Avoidant Personality Disorder because I am 35 and never been on a date or had a girl friend although I would really like to! What can I do too try and over come my problem?

ANSWER

The symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) are not fun to walk around with.  In fact, if you have APD, chances are you rarely walk around because you’re hyper-vigilant about minimizing your exposure to people, particularly people who you don’t know. APD is characterized by a pervasive fear of rejection and criticism which, over time, causes an individual to limit interactions with anyone who they feel might reject or criticize them. As the individual with APD continues to limit activities, his world shrinks until only his most basic needs are being met:  Work, food shopping, etc. If that’s not enough of a challenge, APD individuals also tend to be hardcore pessimists. Essentially, it’s a perfect storm for isolation, loneliness and unhappiness. There’s your primer in Avoidant Personality Disorder.

The good news about personality disorders is that they are learned behaviors, and what was learned can be unlearned.  The bad news is that because these are learned behaviors and there is rarely anything bio-chemically occurring within the individual, medication is not the first line of treatment as it is believed that the person with APD merely needs to make cognitive and behavioral shifts to begin recovery.  Trying to get someone with a personality disorder to make cognitive and behavioral shifts is like trying to lift a flipped car off of a pedestrian. Most shrinks literally run for the hills when they are faced with someone personality disordered.

This may all sound bleak, but I’ve worked with personality disordered people long enough to know that blowing sunshine up your ass is going to trigger you to dig your heels deeper into pessimism, so if I start off where you’re at, we won’t have a power struggle.

There is no easy fix for this.  It’s a shitload of work and you need a shrink who will have the patience of a saint, hold you 100% accountable for what you say you’re going to do, and who is familiar with a mode of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (usually done in group settings but can be done individually). A shrink of this caliber will cost hundreds a session, and sadly, if you have a personality disorder, chances are it’s interfered with your ability to make a living (unless you’re a Mark Zuckerberg-type who has dived into technology in part to avoid working with people). There are no easy answers, but I’ll tell you this:  If you needed a new car, you wouldn’t hesitate to take out a loan.  I think your mental health is worth at least as much.  When you’re monetized, I’ll be happy to help you find a therapist.

Writer’s Stats: Male, Straight.

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