Cluster C Personality Disorders: Living with Fear and Anxiety

Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by feelings of inadequacy, hesitation to engage in social situations, and intense emotional response to criticism.

Living with this condition can mean fear of rejection or harsh judgment prevents you from establishing interpersonal contact.

You might avoid job promotions, for example, social events with new people, or any situation that may require you to actively interact with others.

If someone does offer you a critique, even the mildest statements may cause intense emotional distress, causing you to question your self-worth.

Symptoms and criteria

In the DSM-5-TR, a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder is received when four or more of the following criteria are met:

  • active avoidance of social interaction out of fear of disapproval, rejection, or criticism
  • unwillingness to engage with others unless you’re convinced they like you
  • reluctance to try new things out of fear of being embarrassed
  • extremely low sense of self-worth
  • fixation on the possibility of criticism or rejection in social environments
  • feelings of inadequacy prevent performance in new social situations
  • fear of shame or ridicule prevents being fully open in intimate relationships

Limited research exists on avoidant personality disorder, though some experts suggest it may be closely related to social anxiety disorder.