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Afraid That I Have Avoidant Personality Disorder

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve always been very shy and it seems to have escalated into social anxiety. In elementary school I had many friends and joined teams and got involved. In middle school, the same thing. I’ve always been viewed as the “nice, quiet one”. Around grade 10, I started cutting myself off from people, thinking that they wouldn’t want to be my friends anymore. I’m not sure where this came from. Nevertheless, I withdrew myself and my social anxiety increased. It’s strange, but I seem to have become more confident in myself yet I cannot seem to make relationships anymore. One side of me wants to, but this other stronger side does not want to expose myself or get involved in anything because of fear of rejection. I’ve stopped joining clubs. I spend my lunch hour alone. I have one close friend who I cam be myself around. But I cannot approach her at school if she’s surrounded by other people because they intimidate me. I have trouble looking people in the eye or saying something as simple as “hi.” I work at McDonald’s as a cashier where I do not find it hard interacting with customers. I actually enjoy it. But when it comes to talking to my coworkers, that’s a lot harder for me. I am a very hard worker and make a good employee except for the communication part. I try very hard to please people. I can talk one on one with people but cannot approach a bunch of people and join in conversation. I have stopped getting involved in anything except school and work. Every time I go to work I feel anxious, even though I’ve been working there a year. I remember dreaming about my high school years, and they were not like this. I dream about getting married and having children and a good job where I have lots of friends, but I’m so scared that this will never happen for me. I haven’t told anyone about this and people (even my family) just describe me as shy. It’s killing me and I don’t know what to do.

You may or may not have avoidant personality disorder. You match many of the symptoms. It is a realistic possibility. The good news is that many effective treatments exist for anxiety.

You mentioned that you try to be a people-pleaser. Perhaps you do this because of a desire to be liked or as a strategy to avoid confrontation. Nothing good comes from people-pleasing. The most unfortunate aspect of it is that you abandon your true self and essentially become whoever anyone else wants you to be. It is a very inauthentic way to live. No one could be happy living as someone they are not.

Now is the time to get help. Consult a therapist. Anxiety typically becomes worse if not treated. This happens because people with anxiety often attempt to manage it by avoidance. This short-term approach has been found to make anxiety worse in the long term. Many people have overcome anxiety disorders and live psychologically healthy lives. Millions of people have done it and so can you. You have the power to make positive changes in your life and it begins with deciding to get help. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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