Mental Help Net
Mental Help Net Blogs
Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog
Recent Entries

View Full Archive

Shame and Avoidant Personality Disorder

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.: Thu, Apr 21st 2016

Shame vs. Guilt

There is probably no more difficult and painful emotion than shame. Shame involves complete self-condemnation. It is a major attack against the self in which the individual believes they will be found utterly unacceptable by society. As a result of its overwhelming force, shame causes feelings of disgrace and dishonor. A person who feels shame wants to hide from everyone.

crying boy with arm covering faceBy contrast, guilt does not involve self condemnation. Instead, guilt involves self criticism for a mistaken act or behavior. The self criticism is directed at an error that one has committed for which they feel guilty and want to make restoration. Of course, psychologically speaking, there is overlap between shame and guilt where the shamed person may also have feelings of guilt.

However, shame is much more public than guilt. A person who feels shame expects condemnation from everyone. The person who feels guilt may be the only one who is aware that an error has been committed. A guilty person may feel a loss of self esteem but not to the extent that is experienced by the shamed individual. For example, a student who successfully cheats on an examination may feel guilty for the high grade the professor has awarded because it was not earned. But no one is aware of the cheating. On the other hand, a student who is caught cheating during an exam, with books open on his lap, right in front of his fellow students, may indeed feel extreme shame and embarrassment. The shame is due to the fact that everyone is aware of the serious nature of the infraction.

In the great American novel, The Scarlett Letter, by Nathanial Hawthorne, Hester Prynne exemplifies the power of shame. The novel takes place in puritanical Boston during the seventeenth century. As the novel points out, there was a scaffold in the center of Boston where sinners were publicly displayed. Towns-people would hurl insults at them to humiliate them for having sinned. Hester suffered this fate when it was discovered that her child was the product of an adulterous affair. She was sentenced to wear a large Scarlett Letter on her breast. She was socially isolated and alienated for her indiscretion.

Social Avoidance

There are a significant number of people who suffer from the personality disorder called Social Avoidance. Social Avoidance Disorder is sometimes mistaken for Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia. The difference between an anxiety disorder or social phobia and an avoidant personality disorder has to do with the nature of personality disorders. A personality disorder is a lifelong pattern of behavior that causes problems with work and personal relationships. The fact that this is a lifelong pattern of behavior makes treatment extremely difficult.

The symptoms of avoidant personality disorder include lifelong patterns of behavior such as:

1. Social phobia with enormous anxiety about being around other people.

2. Extreme shyness.

3. Feelings of inadequacy and sensitivity to rejection and criticism.

4. Choosing loneliness and isolation instead of risking connecting to other people.

5. Extreme sensitivity to criticism and shame when criticized.

6. Avoiding criticism more than anything else.

7. Choosing social isolation as a way to avoid criticism.

8. Avoiding making eye contact at work or elsewhere.

9. Avoiding saying anything at work or elsewhere.

10. The avoidant individual is on the lookout for any signs of disapproval from others. This type of vigilant appraisal of others may even have a paranoid flavor to it but has more to do with the overpowering wish to protect themselves against ridicule, derision, and humiliation.

Shame and Its Relation to the Avoidant Personality

While shame is a universal human emotion found in all civilizations and cultures, there are different set of roots from which the reasons for shame spring. Here in western civilization, there is a lot of emphasis placed on being a separate, autonomous, unemotional individualist. Hollywood movies with actors such as Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and Gary Cooper, portray the heroic male who is strong, courageous, and silent. These roles portray self-reliance to the utmost degree.

The high value placed on individuality and self sufficiency in Western Society plays a significant role in complicating things for those who struggle with avoidant personality disorder. The complication is that the value placed on individuality becomes a rationalization or excuse for avoiding social interaction. For these individuals, social interaction is so painful that it must be shunned at all costs. Yet, in most careers it is necessary to behave in socially acceptable ways in order to become successful. It soon becomes apparent to these individuals that they must rely on the cooperation of other people in the work place and elsewhere. Needing the cooperation of others at work is experienced as a threat because they are forced to face up to their social fears and long established patterns of behavior. In fact, the socially avoidant person may experience having to rely on others as a humiliation. Strongly invested in the belief that it is better to "go it alone," they want to withdraw into isolation. It’s a real conundrum, to want to avoid social contact on the one hand because it arouses too much anxiety and to have to admit to needing others in order to function successfully. Independence is highly valued regardless of issues of anxiety and the need for social avoidance.

At the very same time, the nature of the Socially Avoidant Person is such that any criticism, even the slightest, is experienced as acutely painful. In fact, being criticized causes the avoidant person to feel humiliated and, therefore shamed.

The Need to Belong

The simple fact is that all of us, as members of the human species, have a need to belong. While most of us need to spend some time alone, too much aloneness results in depression. Even those with Avoidant Personality Disorder become depressed if they are alone too much of the time. The healthy need to feel accepted and to belong outweighs the wish to avoid.

In all of the cases of avoidant personality disorder I have treated the individuals were either married or in long term relationships. In addition, most were working or had been working until they were forced to resign as a result of overwhelming anxiety and severe depression. Most of the people I have treated were also extremely bright and had attained high levels of education and professional status. They ran into trouble quickly after they started their careers as a result of the demand put on them to be social in their job or profession. As a result of this trouble, they were forced to seek psychotherapy.

Of the cases of people with Avoidant Personality Disorder, those who were married also ran into difficulty with their spouses. The reasons for the marital difficulties had to do with the fact that the spouse with the personality disorder rarely wanted to go out and socialize. The unwillingness to be in social situations even included going to movies, restaurants, and having friends and family over for social visits.


There are a variety of treatments available for Avoidant Personality Disorder. Medication can be useful in reducing anxiety and depression. Among the types of medications used are the anti depressants and/or the anti anxiety drugs. When these symptoms are reduced, individuals with this disorder often find it easier to make use of psychotherapy.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is most useful with the social phobias and avoidant disorders because the emphasis is on changing thinking patterns as well as modifying behavior. The emphasis is on helping the patient face and become desensitized to the stimuli (social situations) that cause them the most trouble. Behavior modification includes learning the social skills necessary to function in society. Among the skills needed to be developed are: 1. making eye contact with people, 2. learning to greet people with a smile and rehearsing common verbal interactions between people, 3. learning how to be assertive in ways that are appropriate, 4. learning what to say or how to respond in a variety of social situations, and 5. learning and rehearsing how to carry on common everyday conversations with people.

Attending assertive training classes is something which can also be helpful for these individuals, as is group therapy, and learning the social skills necessary to function in society.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

How to handle an APD person and make them feel OK - PEY - Feb 28th 2015

I met a person I really like who has AVPD. He used to feel OK around me but I invited him to a party and he freaked out with social anxiety.  Now he seems afraid of me.  What can I do to make him feel comfortable again and to let him know that associating with me is safe.  I asked him if he would work with me on a project and I promised it would only be business, no social obligations would be necessary.  He agreed.

shame uhnbound - - Dec 9th 2014

my friend, a highly respected professional is serving a short prison sentence for a sex crime he claims he did not commit although he admits to having foolishly placed himself in a suspicious situation.

HIs shame is palpable, as is his depession and deliberate isolation. So far, therapy is not helpng his self hate- How can he be rehab-ed when his time is up ???

Be an overcomer - - Dec 8th 2014

Guys all I can say to you who felt less than everybody else in one way or another, you are not alone. I am no psychiatrist and can give no qualified answer for what you are going through but I can speak from my own experiences. I used to feel ashamed of who I was constantly in the past until all of a sudden I changed my belief system when I developed a relationship with Jesus. I know some of you might call this an exeption and may not apply to the average person but what I am saying is that the reason why we feel ashamed of ourself is because somewhere, somehow or someone made us feel shamed of our selves. No one is born that way, we learn it. If you feel inferior it is because you believed a lie and have built your entire perception of yourself from that lie. Once you get around someone or people who can influence what you believe about yourself, you will have a new thought and start to feel something you never felt before. So I encourage you all no to lose hope, talk to yourself and confess the lies you believed about yourself that are holding you back. Love is the cure for shame. Once you realise that you are unconditionally loved, that belief will begin to change you. God bless you guys! You are loved.

I need help - Vince - Nov 16th 2013

I find it impossible to form relationships with people. I have no friends at all, not one, as I stay by myself. I used to work, but I felt socially so inadequate and inferior that I never managed to relate strongly to people or join in with chatting, let alone attending a social event. I felt I had nothing interesting to say; my life was so devoid of the experiences others would talk about. I went through university pretty much the same way - I was extremely shy. Maybe my bleak childhood made me feel so different from other people. I have been on medication for the last 7 years for a mood disorder. I can get through the superficial formalities of getting things done, but I feel threatened at the idea of dating, making friends, attending events where people would normally be expected to socialize. I lack the things that make life worthwhile. Basically, I feel so ashamed of myself. I have never harmed anyone, but I have so little to offer. I had come across AvPD in the past, but it didn't fit exactly. After many years of isolation I have identity issues too and I don't know what kinds of people I would like to socialize with or whether I want to at all anymore. I am no longer sure who I am. I don't see much of a future this way and I have been contemplating suicide. I will read on to see what I can find.

Shame and Avoidant Personality Disorder - Rosie Miranda - Oct 23rd 2013

The world is a really screwed up place and if you dont fit in, I wouldnt take it personaly. I can assure you behind all of that self loathing and low self esteem is a person that does think for themselves,does not say what they are supposed to say and doesnt follow the script.Your not crippled, you have a gift and you have the responsiblity to share it...and many of us have done that in small ways and in bigger ways, somethimes obvious and sometimes through body language. This shadow behind you is what others see and it threatens to dismantle their world that they have spelled out and that fits into a nice  and neat category box.  You cannot go there because you know that you know that the hole you have inside you will only get bigger. There is nothing more lonely than not being able to be yourself.  Go deeper much deeper and you will tap into an energy where you want feel alone and you will not be alone. In that energy, you will meet all of your brothers and sisters and that is where we all truly need  to be. Without that energy, the world is screwed up place.

How to get better - Jules - May 7th 2013

I have been depressed, ashamed etc. etc. my whole life. I'm 41 now. The voice on the inside tells me constantly what is going on, how negative everything is and asks 'why' thousands of times an hour. I have been diagosed with Avoidant P. it does all fit my symptoms.

My question is, when you get so down because you have tried 10 therapists and 6 different anti depressants during the past 25 years what is left to try? What help?  

I can't seem to help myself.  The consequences of that are devestating. I am smart enough to realize that I have exhausted all options. I am hopeless, uncomfortable in my own skin and feel the constant personal battle raging through my blood second by second.

If there are suggestions, try me. 

I am just existing and not living - Tia - Apr 11th 2013

I have a life long history of AvPD.  Briefly, I was raised in a very larg, poor family where we lived out of utility and all kids were to be 'seen and not heard' - who we (the kids) were as an individual did not matter and being an individual and socializing outside the home was highly discouraged. So i have no social interaction skills but i intensely want to be social -like it is my main goal in life.  In college I unfortunately met a guy who was everything I thought I wanted to be socially - he's now a gregarious bartender, very charming and everything.  Unfortunately, he became my boyfriend and I became dependent on him emotionally and made my feeling be based on his approval of me.  He constantly criticizes my social skills and forced me to engage in social setting then tells me that people always say I'm wierd/strange as soon as I leave the room; and if I decide not to go to the social setting, he says I'm rude and that he needs a girlfriend that he can socialize with because that's what life is all about.  So there's a no win situation for me and now I'm literally scared of him because he makes me feel so insignificant and socially inept - basically like I don't deserve to be alive because I can't be social. Unfortunately, he's cheated on me several times citing that he needed the social interaction and then I'd beg for him to give me another chance - ironically.  Its been 13 years since I've met him and we have a child together but have been broken up for 3 years.  He still intermittently 'checks in' to see if I've developed socially wherein we try to see if we could be together but it always end with me not performing well enough for his friends or family.  Currently, he is moving his new girlfriend into his home and has given up on me and I feel like any chance at a social life for me is crushed. To make matters worse, he gave me herpes which is further ostracizing- im a very physically attractive woman and tried dating one other person for a while but when i told him about the std he never spoke to me again.  Currently, the only thing I'm living for is my child - I definitely would have already committed suicide if it wasn't for this child that I love so much and want him to be raised well so that he isn't socially inept also.  I'll never date again and have no friends because rejection makes me feel suicidal.  Problem is that I need to be social in order to ensure my child is socially normal - how can I do this?  Like really, how?  I've tried counseling (could not carry out the cognitive behavioral techniques due to fear), I also have tried going to my childs classmates birthday parties and its me on one side and all other parents together on the opposite side of the room.  I personally feel I cannot fix this but know I must for my child because he is asking me why he has never had a play date and he is 4 years old.  I'm alone and likely will be forever - I just don't know what to say to people or what will please them.  I'm unable to socially please and thus can't socialize.

Question regarding AvPD - CWH - Mar 17th 2013

I have AvPD, and it seems to be getting worse the older I get. I was raised by a Narcissistic mother who always put me down for not being pretty enough. My Grandmother absolutely hated me, and she commented that the only reason my first husband married me was because he was "crazy" (he was bi-polar), and pointed out that no-one would ever want me. I never had friends, always picked last for everything, the whole drill. Here is my question: I just noticed that whenever I am in public and it is rather crowded and people are having fun, I get depressed. I just took my mom out for her 90th birthday, and we went to a casino. I saw all kinds of people laughing, drinking, having fun, hanging out with friends. I have NEVER done that, I have never been invited to a party, and when I worked I was never even invited to group lunches (in fact I was told that I was NOT welcome). I know I have no social skills, and I dress rather bizarre compared to other people, so being alone doesn't surprise me. Do other people with AvPD get depressed in similiar situations? 

Also, I have two lives, I have my "real" life where I have to deal with being me, and then I have another life, one where I pretend I am my favorite rock star,  and don't give a dang about what anyone thinks about me.  I live in a serious fantasy world because I can't accept me. I dress like him, and try to be as much like him as possible. Everyone else hates me, why shouldn't I hate myself? 

P.S. I just started with a new doctor who understand AvPD, so many therapists have no idea what it is, it is nice to have finally found someone who understands my feelings. 

Thank you

ADVICE for sufferers - Misssjess - Jan 11th 2013

Hi guys I just wanted to add in my comments again

I would like to point out that I also had depersonalization disorder, avpd is very similar also because in both they hide there emotional selves.

Things avoidants have in common are the following:

Abusive childhoods (emotional abuse and neglect)

Shamefull social encounters

Low self esteem

Low emotional intelligence AND they have not emotionally separated themselves from there parents

So in my opinion ppl with avpd had a lot of trauma and no emotional intelligence to deal and face it head on leaving them to feel helpless and weak.. You actually learn these traits from parents ... So it is something u need to tackle from multiple angels

Number  1 is obvious, challenge these limiting beliefs most ppl with avpd or DPD have a lot of limiting beliefs especially the belief that something is wrong with you that in itself is condemning.

Learn to face your fears and accept yourself no matter what the outcome !!

Ppl with avpd have lost contact with there inner child and emotional self... Work on this daily, attend to ur needs and feelings do something with urself each day to form the habbit of putting urself first and attending to ur own needs before others 

Learn about toxic shame and practice self love. Integrate all aspects of self including anger and weakness!!

Learn about enmeshment and what it is, seperate yourself EMOTIONAlLY from others, don't take on responsibly for other ppls feelings that's why u feel fu**ed up after hanging with ppl coz ur too busy watching to see if u don't rock the boat or are too concerned with there feelings and not ur own

Know the \\\\\\\\

Can it work - - Nov 18th 2012

I suspect my wife may have Avoidant Personality Disorder and her adultery may have been the result of it.

She wants to reconcile.  What are the odds of a successful marriage when one spouse is afflicted with this disorder?

Sick of inadvertently pushing people away - Melissa - Jan 28th 2012

I've done this all my life.  I carry tension in my body constantly.  In social situations I experience a mixture of shame, feelings of a kind of a personal irrelevance, fears that if I try to voice an opinion or comment nobody is going to take any notice of me or will talk over me, fears that I embarrass people just by my very presence, a certainty that people often don't want to look me in the eye, or that they will get a strange look on their face when I talk to them, and all sorts of related insecurities.  So I don't say anything, I freeze and become utterly silent.  I am second-guessing every social interaction.  When all this gets too much, I simply exit the scene.  I try to disappear (that is, if I made it there in the first place).  The problem is, people then think I'm being rude.  Currently, my boyfriend's extended family has been making friendly overtures towards me.  I care very much for this whole family.  Some of them are staying here at the moment (we live with his uncle).  And more of them come around every day or two.  It is almost too much for me.  I spend most of my time in our room or out the back with my boyfriend, and I must look very peculiar or unfriendly.  I can feel their friendliness waning, I know they think I'm rude or don't like them.  I feel awful, worse every day, and even feel panic and the desire to run away totally. Funnily enough, for a while last year I was getting a lot better.  I was able to speak up and voice my opinions in the classes I was taking without thinking something awful was going to happen.  I didn't have the urge to go and hide under a rock.  I don't know what happened to change that - too much all at once, maybe.

Anyway, this AvPD has taken a devastating toll on my life.  It's very hard to change this.  I almost envy my boyfriend's brother who has schizophrenia - when the relatives all turned up a week ago (seven or so of them), he simply up and left.


Redux - - Jan 4th 2012

What is most important is that you have important long term relationships. You have your family and you have a significant other. Why call yourself "schizoid?" Unless you perceive a problem about yourself, who is to say how many relationships a person should or should not have. In this modern world of our's we tend to pathologize ourselves.

Dr. Schwartz

Psychobabble redux - - Jan 4th 2012

Not really redux - I just wanted to express appreciation for a prompt response to a rather critical comment aimed at therapists generally, not you specifically. So thank you for taking the time to respond.

As one who has never felt much need for connection with anyone outside of my immediate family save for a significant other, perhaps I have a schizoid personality style rather than an avoidant one - though I still hesitate to call that a disorder.

Since solitude is more comfortable for me, if I forced myself into long periods of contact with others (which I have had to do for work on occasion) I would be less content than if I didn't. It's like going out into the cold - I can stand it for however long is necessary, but I'd prefer to be inside given the choice. The brief glimpses of belonging I've felt in my life did feel good, but they also felt like luxuries - things I could do with out. They weren't like food or water or shelter or physical security. But I digress...

Psychobabbl? - - Jan 3rd 2012

I suspect that you misunderstand the concept here. There are never guarantees about how people will respond to any one of us. Each of us experiences those who like us and who do not like us. The point is that the person who feels shamed and self hating avoids all people. They self isolate, avoid all others. Only by reaching out, interacting with others, will they learn about those who are accepting. Then, there is the job of learning to reject those who dislike you and warmly accept those who do. When you learn to recognize those who like you puts you on the path to liking yourself. How is this "psychobabble." In fact, this seems practicle and down to earth to me. By the way, what is written here is based on practicle work with people over many years of experience.

Psychobabble? - - Jan 3rd 2012

So if you hypnotized an ugly and dejected person to have extreme self-confidence - say by making her thing she was Beyonce - would the hypnotic suggestion wear off as the person relearned that they are chronically dejected by others as the tried, again, to interact with them?

I ask because I don't think how others respond to you can be treated by treating you. If you're unwelcome, unwanted, the last person picked for a team in gym, etc.--no amount of conditioning or therapy will change a damn thing.

In that respect talk about treatment of an avoidant "disorder" is just so much bull: in a hostile social environment being avoidant just might be the most rational strategy one can take. If the presence of others usually leads to criticism, wouldn't it be better psychologically to avoid others, so that you're not constantly hung up on why they reject you? If you're not around them, you might never think about it, and even feel good about yourself. It is the constant criticism of others - not self-criticism - that usually brings you down, and if you can avoid it, maybe you'll be happier as an avoidant. Am I wrong?

dearmissjessica - Allan N. Schwartz, Phd - Oct 25th 2011

I did just receive your email and will respond. Suffice it to say that nothing heals like experience. Work in your chosen field, I believe you said its in health, will help you become desensitized to much that presently feels painful. The idea is to not allow recent unfortunate events to color how you think and feel. Entering a field as a professional is entirely different to anything that came before and my guess is that it will feel really good. It will be hard but will increasingly feel better. That is my prediction and past experience.

Dr. Schwartz

Dear MissJessica.. - student9 - Oct 25th 2011

I am also semi-diagnosed Av P D as well as some anxiety.  I'm going to school now to be in the health field - I've been fortunate enought to get into an awesome school.  I'm excited to work one on one w/ patients, but am terrified for the co-worker interaction.  My first job out of college (my previous degree) was w/ a great company, but an awful boss, that completely bullied me, even in front of my other coworkers.  Since then I've felt stripped of any confidence of myself.  It was bad.. came home crying just about every day, but too stubborn to quit.  I eventually left, but I haven't been the same.  I've also been picked on as a kid, and so never really had that fit-in feeling much.  Since I'm back in school, I'm trying to help condition myself, my thoughts and behavior on my own.  Do you have any help or words of advice you could pass along??  I'd really appreciate it.  This is so hard and I just want to be over this!  It's so dabilitating in my life, and has set me back because of it.  Thanks in advance!!

to missjessica - hq - Aug 19th 2011

i thought my email would show up in the last post.  it is

to missjessica - hq - Aug 19th 2011

missjessica if you are reading this please contact me through email.  i want to know about your experience with TLM.  Thanks.  

my personal success story with avpd/s.a - missjessica - Aug 15th 2011

After reading all of your comments and stories about yourselves, partners or loved ones suffering with this delibitating condition...I myself would like to give you some insight and tell you of my story!...

Ok so i am a 23yold female I was semi diagnosed with avpd, Ive been through social phobia/anxiety/ocd/body dysmorphic disorder!!

I want to tell you all that avpd is NOT AN ILLNESS & guess what it can be overcome!!

The cause of our issues is purely because of our self limating beliefs and judgements that we hold over ourselves..once they were formed you percieve the world in which you live in based on your judgements and beliefs of yourself! The more you gather "evidence" from the outside world to support those beliefs the more isolated you become!

I went through a process called The Liberator Method & that worked for me, once you reprogramme your beliefs and judgements and accept yourself totally, being rejected won't affect you anymore, being judged won't affect you because you don't hold any judgments on yourself.

Ive done CBT, hypnosis(which was great and only lasted for 2 weeks max) exposure therapy, and medication.

I still stay on my anti depressant because this helps with sensetivity(I am naturally a sensetive person and I prefer to not cry over petty things lol)

Please believe me though THERE IS HOPE OUT THERE and if anyone would like some advice please feel free to get in contact with me I would LOVE to help fellow sufferers!!!

Daughter of an Avoider and a BPD - Eve - Dec 9th 2009

My comment is in relation to Frank's below, I'm the oldest daughter of a couple with a similar dynamic to Frank and his wife's.  My father has expressed the same thing written in the comment here, he just said it to me again when I saw him a couple of weeks ago.  He and my mother have remained married for 39 years now.  They seem to like each other much better than when I was a kid.  They seem pretty happy, actually, considering how unhappy they were when I was growing up between them.  

I'm okay too, as is my sister, though we're not without some deep scars.  I'm struggling to fully grow out of the left over trauma from years of fights and abuse.  I'm 36.  I guess my advice to you Frank is whether you can find ways to survive your wife's attacks and to manage to progress yourself.  She won't change, though she might improve some if you engage her.  

Things got better once my father started yelling back, which took about 12 years or so.  He's not the yelling type by nature.  But he has his own problems which is why he is with my mother.  As he got better, she did too.  

I don't know if this is of any help, I guess I'm saying that if you can come to better terms with your own issues, your wife might follow.  She won't become rational but she may try to behave a bit better once she sees you improving.  No one likes to be left behind.  Family therapy might help if you find a good one.  We tried it and it didn't do too much, though it gave my father someone to voice his issues too other than me, since he doesn't have friends.  

Reach outside yourself if you can.  Do the best you can for when you have to explain to your kids why it was so bad in the house.  At least you can say you did your best to resolve the problems.

Good luck,


Just discovered AvPD last night - Frank - Dec 7th 2009

I have never heard of this before but it fits me quite well.  I ended up on Wikipedia looking at personality issues yesterday and came across the "Cluster C" page, and so far it has been quite a revelation!  I don't have a lot of answers in this post, just questions.

Some of my earliest memories around 5 years old were getting seriously bullied by a neighbor kid and playing the old Sesame Street song "Somebody come and play" because I was so lonely for friends.  That song still brings me to tears!  Weird, isn't it?

Luckily, my parents took me to a psychologist when I was a kid and that has helped me immensely over the years (though I didn't really realize it til much later).  I don't remember a lot of it, but he mainly helped me with how to deal with bullies and how to interact better with people.

I have learned to be more social and have had some good friends over the years, though I was probably known as the flaky guy who may or may not show up when everyone went to the bar or a party - even if I said I'd be there.  I am also lucky that I have always had a knack for computers, so I have a fairly successful career in IT.  I feel fairly good about myself, though it is easy for me to feel like an "outsider" in social situations unless people are talking about the things in which I'm an expert.

My big problem is that I married someone with her own serious "Cluster B" problems, and this combination is like oil and water.  I always want to calm down and rationally discuss issues, but when she gets upset she goes off the deep end.  She has physically assaulted me a few times, and whenever she has a problem she rattles off everything she has ever been bothered by since we first started dating - at the top of her lungs usually.  For an AvPD person this can obviously be quite traumatic but she tries to say that I am the one being abusive because I stay calm on the outside.  Her whole goal is to make me as upset as she is, it seems.  She even goes so far as to insult me in front of our son, yesterday she told him she didn't want him to end up as a lowlife like his father.  Even when she has legitimate complaints she blows it so far out of proportion that it is impossible to resolve anything.  The non-BPD sites out there have helped but never really helped me to figure out my own issues.

We have a 7 year old together, which is why we didn't part ways years ago.  I alternately fantasize about either making things work well together or getting out, but I seem to be stuck in between because either opening up to her or leaving will be painful.  I feel like we have been at a crossroads for like 6 years.

OK thanks for listening, it feels good to be able to understand myself a little better.


To Kathy - - Oct 4th 2009

Hi Kathy,

I was searching for information on AvPD and happened upon your post.  We are about the same age and I too have AvPD and Social Phobia.  I am single and I have always thought that being married and having a child would dramatically change my life for the better.  I've not been willing to date for years because of my very low self-esteem which I intellectually know probably isn't merited, but my emotions dominate my decisions. 
I understand about turning to food for comfort.  I do the same thing.  I often feel so alone and there is so little that I can do to make myself feel better.  Eating food (especially foods very high in sugar) picks up my mood briefly.  I'm lucky that I don't have much of a weight problem.  I inherited skinny genes from both of my parents.  But, I still weigh more than I would like.  I tried exercising at a gym, but I quit because of my social anxiety.  Recently, I started exercising at home and that's going pretty well.  I workout to different exercise videos.  
I feel shame for the same reasons you do.  My family has always helped me financially because my AvPD has made it too difficult for me to work.  I want so much to be able to contribute more.  I want them to spend their money on themselves, not me. But, like you said, when someone else is taking care of you financially and you have severe AvPD, it's very hard "to find some strength to rely on yourself."
You wrote, "I'm so afraid I will die without ever having success in anything."  I completely identify with that.  I feel like I'm wasting my life.  I want things to change so badly.
I've always thought that if I got married, I would be better able to contribute.  Even if I wasn't working, I could be responsible for keeping up our home and making things pleasant for my husband who was going out to make our living.  I live alone in a house and it's a major job just keeping everything up.  Imagine if your husband was single and living in your house alone.  Wouldn't it be very hard for him to both work and keep up the house?  So, if you are doing housekeeping, you are making a contribution.  If you're not doing this, this would be one way that you could make a contribution.  Plus, more importantly, you've given your husband your love and support and you have a child together.  I'm sure this brings him happiness. 
On the other hand, like you, I always say to myself that this type of contribution wouldn't be enough.  If I were married, I would need to bring in an income. Since I haven't been able to do that except in a very limited way, I won't even date because I'm sure I'll eventually be rejected.
You say in your post that you know other Avoidants who have jobs and are educated.  If you aren't educated, you could have fooled me by what you've written here.  You express yourself beautifully.
I'm still searching for answers to lessen social anxiety's grip on me.  I think one answer is connecting with others dealing with this problem.  Thank you for reaching out to connect.  It does help me to read your story and realize that there is someone else going through the same thing.

Avoidant Personality Disorder, Intense Shame, Marriage - Kathy - Oct 3rd 2009

Hi Again,

I posted some time back about having AVPD and Social Phobia. I was thinking that maybe I should say a little more about being a 'married avoidant' since in effect, outside of my Avoidant life, being married is the only thing I've done. I have a child so I've been a mother too. The APD has affected both those relationships for if I had been able to "behave" consistently as a non-avoider does, I don't think my child would have been as affected nor would my spouse feel as stuck. I couldn't be anymore grateful than I am to have a husband who loves me anyway but at the same time shame hits me hardest in not being the kind of woman, wife, mother I should have been had I not struggled all these years with avoidant personality disorder.

When I was younger I was able to do more and did so for the sake of my child. I didn't want him to feel held back by me so I got us involved in things like school activities, sports etc. I also allowed him to have his friends over though that was very tough. I knew that he and his friends saw me as different than other Moms and that was painful but I'd put on a brave face and tried to act the part. I never had any friends so my husband and I didn't socialize much although there were Christmas parties and other gatherings I would force myself to attend. As time went on, however, I was unable to force myself to go anymore.

Having no outside activities or interests outside of what I had to do for my child and husband, I turned to food for comfort. My weight has increased by 100 pounds and I'm now obese. It is devastating to say the least and I live in fear that I may die from health related issues because no matter how awful I feel about it and no matter how many diets I promise to succeed on, I can't stop eating and I can't lose the weight. When I begin going to a gym or start a program, after about 3 times, I quit going. The avoidance and the discomfort of being around others and becoming more known by people is terrifying to me. This is the same thing with jobs I've had. I'm so nervous about messing up, not being smart enough and people figuring out that I'm not cut out for the job along with the terrifying feeling of getting too familiar with people I work with, I quit before ever knowing if I could have suceeded at it or not.

Financially, this has made everything difficult for us. My husband is the one who has to work over time to keep things afloat. This article about Avoidant Personality Disorder and Shame really hits home for me. Because that's what it feels like; like I'm this useless wimpy ball of shame that can't get past the fears that hold me back. Now, that I'm very overweight it adds to me feeling terrible about myself and I can no longer HIDE like I did before. What was once an attractive face and figure that I could hide behind and pretend to be confident, now, is someone so paralyzed in her shame the light has nearly all but dimmed.

I don't know about others that are married with an Avpd partner but my spouse has been the kindest human being to me. Sometimes, thought I keep it to myself, I get frustrated and angry with him thinking if he 'loved me more' he'd kick me in the a-- because he'd want me to succeed and he'd stop enabling me to be so dependent on him. That resentment also makes me feel ashamed because how is any of this his fault? It's not! He just doesn't know how to help me. I feel so helpless to change and to fight it anymore. So I gave up.

What's very sad is that my family members haven't seen me in years. I've made excuses to stop visiting a long time ago. It's even affected going to weddings of people I was close to at one time and funerals too. I'm so afraid I will die without ever having success in anything; that I'll die fat from isolation, from stuffing my face with food and then they'll really all see how I'd gotten and not understand why I couldn't pull myself together.

For me, as an Avoidant person, the thought is that I will feel my shame from even beyond the grave.

I guess I'm writing this as a means to be useful sharing my struggles outloud hoping it might help someone else. What I don't want it to do is depress you. I try not to feel the depression in my situation because I know others are in worse life situations than myself and to be honest I don't think I have the right to complain about anything. But when I stop and see and really really see what has happened to me and what I have helped do to myself I feel the darkest most unbelievable kind of pain and self loathing that I can't even ask God to help me.

A small comfort I've found is that there are others out here that probably have some idea of what I'm talking about. I think my condition is more severe than most other people with AvPD as I said in an earlier post here. At the Avoidant group I belong to I see different types but lot's of them have jobs and are educated. I know that single Avoidants struggle with loneliness and fear that they will be alone for the rest of their lives. All I can say is if you are Avoidant and get married, it doesn't change anything. It can cause you to feel even more shame because you've brought another person into your personal hell and you'll tend to feel responsible for everything, even things that aren't your fault. This is not to discourage anyone whom finds someone to love. I have much love for my spouse and he for me but I have none for myself. This is exactly what is missing.

It is so hard to admit all of this. There's the tiniest part of me that imagines I can find a way to the surface and save myself. I want that. I want to live and thrive and help others that are like me too. But I don't know how. I don't know how to not feel the SHAME of who I am, what I've become and who I was even before it got this way. I thank this site for being here and all the sites on the web that are there for people like me, otherwise, I'd have nowhere to say this. The only reason I can say it here is because you can't see me. If you could I don't know that I could say it without looking like an insane, hysterical pile of emotion and tears.

I put this site here before in my last post. It is a webpage on AvPD and they have listed some support forums there. I've found some incredibly nice people in those groups. I think some people with AvPD have the co-morbid disorders like Post traumatic stress disorder and OCD. I know I do and this makes everything more complicated. So it's just not for Avpd alone. 

I seriously hope to gain confidence through learning from others challenges. Like I said I don't know if there are others as severe as me and sometimes that can make feel like there is no hope for me to change. I keep thinking at least some of you have jobs and can go to work and take care of yourselves. Or that you have families who won't throw you out on the street if you can't work. Some will say at least I have a spouse that cares about me and so I should not feel any worse than anyone else. But truthfully I think Avoidant Personality Disorder is better off not affecting other people in your life. So if you are alone and not dependent on anyone it is best. I think the chance of healing is better because you have to find some strength to rely on yourself. I don't mean that people can't be married and be OK with AvPD, it's just me and my situation and the way I feel about myself. If I had a career and could seen success in other areas of my life I would feel differently and the shame not so overbearing.

Thank you for reading. I'm hoping something I've written here will help someone else.



My story with Avoidant Personality Disorder - Kathy - An Avoidant Persson w/Avoidant Personality Disorder - Sep 23rd 2009

Hi, I wanted to tell the people at this site how much the articles and efforts of the dr. has helped me and I hope you don't mind if I share here. I'm a person with Avoidant Personality Disorder and it's been devastating to my life. I know my case is probably very severe and conventional therapy and meds haven't been very helpful, though I've seen others who have been helped by meds and CBT type of therapy. Which is why having a place to read articles and get info like here has been good for me. Online I'm a different person; I don't know if that's good or not. Maybe who I am online is a more confident version of a more surpressed self and it's been good for my self confidence. I joined an Avoidant Personality Disorder group through this site and there seems to be a lot of people like me there, though to be honest, I think I'm probably the worst kind of Avoidant person with co-morbids but atleast I don't feel alone anymore. It's an accepting place. When you isolate from the world like I have, having connection with others who understand is helpful. The difficult part is that I'm 43 years old and haven't held a job in years. I've tried to work but always quit after a week or two. It's terrible and I feel bad about not making a paycheck while my husband works hard. There are Avoidant people that work and are well educated but I could never sit through a class or group long enough to learn. It's like I have a faulty filter that doesn't work. I was diagnosed with both PTSD and Avpd and when I was younger, I was known to have learning disabilities. I think the avoidant personality disorder is due to the trauma compounded by the affects of never being able to succeed at anything without major amounts of frustration. I can lightly socialize with strangers but outside my husband not many others. Anyway, I wanted to share with everyone that there are places and groups where people can relate to you. In my dreams I hoped to one day be the healthier version of myself. This is probably too long a comment but I wanted to share my story. Part of it atleast. I hope it helps someone. Thank you for this site.

Crystal - support that may help - Nelly - Sep 12th 2009

Hi Crystal

I haven't checked these pages in some time and only just came across your post to me.  I am sorry to hear of the pain you are suffering because of this relationship.  I have no easy suggestions that will help only quite tough ones - but they do work!  I tried to do the friend thing too but it didn't help me in getting over my ex and so finally I went completely no contact with him.  Its probably one of the hardest things I have ever done but my own recovery has catapulted forward ever since I have done that.  I hope Dr Schwartz & his team won't mind me mentioning another site. I take regular support from another online community which has helped me immensely. It is specifically for those who are related to or in relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder.  My focus is now well and truly where it should be - on myself and my own recovery and it is my hope that in the future when I am ready to 'choose' a partner to share my life with that I will choose a healthy one.  I hope you find the strength to take the steps you need to for your own healing Crystal, the rewards are well worth the effort.  You will get over him, in time.

Help! - Cyalanee - Aug 1st 2009

uhmmm...can I sk something? I can't find any perfect results for my question...

uhmmm...I hope someone could help me...I always feel alone...and worthless...during the first day of my highschool...I felt insecurities...I always daydream, without even noticing when someone calls me out...I always feel hopeless and I suddenly change my mood...I'm always sad...and depressed...with unvalid reasons...

Do I have any disorders?any imbalance? if yes...what do I have to do? hELP...SOS...thank you!

To Nelly - Crystal - Jul 18th 2009


I have had the same experience as you and I feel devastated.  Today has been dreadful.  I would love to correspond with you.  I feel so low and lonely too.  I met up with my ex yesterday and I am still deeply in love with him.  I have worked a lot of things out but it doesn't take the pain away. 

I am just starting my journey into looking into this properly and either to find some closure or to be able to 'get over him' and be his friend which is what he wants.  He is now seeing someone else (the second someone since we broke up) and its starting to fit a pattern.

Not seeing him is painful for me and seeing him is painful for me, because I have to suppress my true feelings for it to be ok.

I too, in the last 25 years, have been hurt badly 3 times.  I have had a ton of counselling and I know myself well....but it doesn't stop the pain.  Partner before was NPD probably and I have been on a support forum for that for 4 years but its no longer appropriate.  I do need another form of support. I really do.  I am getting very depressed without him in my life.  He is not cruel.  In fact he is very kind.  But he doesn't want us to see each other until I am over him.  After NPDman and my son's father who was incredibly cold in the end e is the kindest man I have ever met and we have been incredibly close and been through so much together. 

All he can tell me is there is no chemistry anymore even though he wanted it to work between us. During Round 1 there was no problem with chemistry...but I wasn't in love with him then.  When I started to fall in love with him and need him...that's when the problems started.

We managed friends for 18months in between round 1 and round 2.  I suppressed my true feelings throughout that 18months.  I am being as real as possible now.  I have to be true to myself and he knows I desperately want him to come back but that alienates him even though he is tender about it.

I need to share with the 'victims' of AvPD if that indeed is what it is.  I need to look into mild Aspeeger's too.  I just don't really know but something is not in the range of normal emotional responses.  I am sure of it.  I don't think anyone knows him as well as I. 





He MUST have Avpd - - May 1st 2009

I know a very nice man who is quite the party animal, but as I recall over the years, he was never seen unless it was late at night at a party or in a bar/club.He is very flirtatious and sociable, only when drunk or high. He liked someone I know, but once she found out, he withdrew. She liked him back, but he would never answer her phone calls or text messages, except in the beginning. First couple of times they had brief conversations where he would panic if there was silence on the phone, when she paused for a breather, for example.  Shortly after, he was ready to hang up. Most of the time he won't asnwer phone calls at all. He is VERY sensitive, and she feels like she has to really limit what she says to him. Basically, unless she is is praising him or talking about his interests(partying), if she mentions any concerns or makes any suggestions,he gets defensive, and offended.When and if they do hang out, after she pesters him over a period of time, he will only hang out with her in a bar/club, and he always has to bring someone with him, like a shield, or for support. He is also very stiff. His hugs are stiff. He is very nervous and aprehensive, and is almost never seen during he day. Does anyone think he may have Avpd?

a little help - Linda - Apr 30th 2009

Hi there...Not sure there is much to say to your friend about the legal trouble. Maybe one of the best things you can do is just call and chat about what you would have chatted about before the trouble. Simply state beforehand that your relationship isn't going to change and that you are there for him and then move onto what you would normally talk about. Don't avoid it, but don't overfocus on it, either, it adds undue pressure. Hope this helps,Blessings, Linda

What to say to a friend. - M - Mar 30th 2009

My best friend checked himself into a facility two days ago dealing with shame because he got into legal trouble. He is a professional with a graduate degree and a great career (which he stands to now lose) and a loving wife of less than a year.

I was only able to speak to him on the phone for a few moments the day he was going to check himself in, and I don't know the details of the trouble he is in, but he kept repeating to me that he was "sorry" and he sounded on the edge of tears. His wife called me the next day and told me they had admitted him.

I am supposed to visit him this evening, and want to know what I should say, and what I should avoid saying. I want to let him know that I care about him, I understand he feels ashamed, and say whatever I can to disarm him and ease his anguish. My only expectation of the guy is that he continue to be a presence in my that alright to say? 

Everywhere I look there are resources for dealing with shame, but nothing about helping another person deal with it. Hoping you can help!

Editor's Note: People in this sort of situation are very good at self-criticism, so it is unlikely you will be able to comfort such a person by trying to out-argue them.  I think simple acceptance statements about how you value the person and want to continue to be in the person's life may possibly prove comforting, and as well, statements designed to call attention to the fact that if they live long enough, people will inevitably experience crises and that these crises, though terrible while they are present, do pass with time.  When someone is deeply depressed in this manner, this larger perspective is often lost or discounted.  

Avoidant Sister - Allan N Schwartz - Feb 27th 2009

Hi Seaton,

You and your family must decide what feels right for you with regard to your sister. Certainly, this does not seem to be a case where she is in trouble due to drug or alcohol abuse that she must decide to get treatment for on her own. Rather, she seems to have a rigid type of personality disorder that, at best, is difficult to treat. In addition, whether she had gotten a college degree and a higher level job or not, in today's econonmy there would be a very good chance that she could have lost her job anyway. Also, her debt is not larg at all and not even unreasonable. Therefore, the family must make it own choices about loaning her money. If you want my presonal opinion, and that does not count for much, I would loan her the money because she does not seem to be an irresponsible type of person. You could loan her the money and add your urging her of the importance of returning to school. However, in the end, all of you must make your own decision.

Dr. Schwartz

Sister with Avoidant Personality Disorder - Seaton - Feb 27th 2009

Dear Dr. Schwartz,

I have a situation very similar to Lisa's posting. Our older sister who is now 48 suffers from a combination of Avoidant Personality Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, and OCD. It has made life extremely difficult for her, and it's worse now that she's older.

Her condition made school a struggle and so she ended up getting a degree from a secretarial school -- something she still blames many of her problems on. Her whole adult life she has moved from place to place, Florida, New York, Texas, and now New Hampshire, usually living with a boyfriend or roommate. Although intelligent, her condition has kept her in minimum wage jobs that she doesn't keep for long, usually because of stressful situations that she can't cope with. In addition, her OCD has worsened over the years, with her needing to carry a backpack everywhere, crumpling up endless tissues, and being paranoid of germs.

Here's the crux of the problem. She's kept away from the family for nearly 20 years, and only contacts us in crisis mode when she asks for money. In her 20's, many of us gave her thousands of dollars to help get her on track, but it never did any good. It seemed never enough. Even when she did receive money, she would disappear again until the next crisis of being evicted or needing a car.

She just emailed my sister yesterday in a panic that she lost her job and owes $1,200 in back rent and asked for help. She says she's carpooling with a friend to a town 1 1/2 hours away to look for work since there are no jobs where she is. We're at a total loss as to what to do. She definitely needs some treatment but we can't make her go. But we can't support her financially indefinitely either. We also resent her contacting us only for money and then disappearing. We don't want her to become homeless though. What is your advice? We really need your counsel on this. Thank you.

Son with social avoidance - Allan N Schwartz - Feb 20th 2009

Hi Lisa,

The pain you experience with regard to your son is palpable. Frankly, I am asking myself about the possibility of ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I have no way of knowing if this was ever diagnosed or if it is a possibility. It could be and that would explain why he did not do the cognitive behavioral homework and why he has such difficulty following through. It is also possible that he is not shy or socially phobic but very ashamed of himself because he senses his ADHD problems, if I am correct.

All I can suggest is that he do the very thing he does not wish to do: go for further evaluation and diagnosis for what is going on with him. Actually, right here, on this site, there is an informal self test that people can use to see if they could have ADHD. Perhaps he would be willing to try it.

Dr. Schwartz

son with social avoidance/anxiety disorder - Lisa - Feb 20th 2009

My son has had a problem with anxiety and depression since he was 14 yrs old. We have been to therapists and on many different medications for years. He is very smart but dropped out of high school and has not been able to go to college even though he has tried. He is 23 hrs old now. He has never been able to hold a job. He actually gives a good impression and has no problem getting a job and he will go a few times and then never show up again. He is addicted to his computer and video games. I sent him to live with his father 1 year ago( I live in a different state) because I just can't deal with him anymore. He is sucking the life out of me. I have done everything I can think of to help him. I even went and delivered pizzas with him when he had a job at a pizza place so he would get comfortable with the job. He does not go through with any of the cognitive behavioral modification therapy the therapist has tried to teach him. He is taking paxil now but has been on may medications. Now he refuses to go to a therapist. He is living with his father in an apartment and is isolated all day. He has a hard time leaving the apartment unless someone is with him. He sleeps all day and is up all night. He has no friends except internet friends. Is there anything else I can do for him? I am desperate. Now he is trying to go to the office with his father for 2 hours every day to work but he still has not been able to do it, even though it would be in the evening and no one else will be there. He is very sensitive especially to criticism. I have to be very careful around him with what I say to him. I am always the cheerleader with him. When he has lived with me I slowly end up doing everything for him and then resenting him. He is very insidious about it, very manipulative. Help me anyone?

AVPD - 8 Dec - silverstar - Dec 8th 2008


I am not sure but I think my husband may have AVPD.  He would say, "we all have some trauma, you have yours and I have mine and i like to deal with my own privately".

Before I married, I was in counselling. I felt retraumatised by the process of sending my perpetrator to gaol after many years. I felt positive and wanted to start my search for that special man. I met my husband and have been married four years. 

Little arguments over nothing would send him into a storm and quickly out the door. I tried not to feel too low but it ate at me. He was so defensive. We were never able to have a heart to heart talk or work on the marriage. He refused to see a marriage counsellor little than someone for himself. He was above that. He was abused and neglected and so was I years ago but he could apparently not hold down a counsellor. I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and recieved regular support. I thought we could work toward things.. but that was not to happen. The marriage decayed in front of us. 

Earlier this year we did the final round of IVF (me thinking it would magically open us up emotionally to each other), but it failed again. The worst part of the experience was not the fact that I would probably not have children (due to my age); it was that my husbands lack of support and mood change dug into me so deeply I was unable to fully recover. I was physically mentally and emotionally unwell. He was actually wounded by the process of planning a child! It brought up strange statements and tears I have never seen before and the emotions had nothing to do with me or us. It was accentuated by the increase in alcohol and cigarettes.

Anyway, I felt more and more abandanded. I thought things would change if I got myself stronger and if he just learnt to listen a little more. But niether happened. I got more anxious about whether I would lose him and felt feelings of separation anxiety. I was also scared and felt a kind of dependance on my husband because I was unwell. I actually had no one, no family or friends. I became distant from everyone. Not long after, i suffered a stroke. I was also unfortunately diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune diseae. I was reasonably lucky with the stroke and how i would be able to manage the autoimmune disease, but not so with the marriage. He was out the door like a rocket. And I am trying to come to terms with my lessions... Thanks for listening... Rene

AVPD and Suicide - Allan N Schwartz - Dec 4th 2008

I find it necessary to respond to some of you who are convinced that having an Avoidant Personality Disorder condemns you to being that way forever. In fact, there is very real treatment for this and I have seen people, as a result of the correct psychotherapy, make far better adjustments to life than they ever thought possible. I "hear" the hopeless despair in those who post that they are stuck with this and prefer to die. Trouble is that death is hopeless and even unnecessary because help is available: Seeing a clinical psychologist for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and if the depression is very bad or the anxiety is very bad, medication until the danger has passed. Thereafter, the therapy will help all those with this problem learn to interact with people and feel better doing so.

Best of Luck to all of you.

Dr. Schwartz

Im an AvPD - - Dec 4th 2008

I'm an AvPD and its only a matter of time before I kill myself

Avoidant Personality Disorder - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Aug 17th 2008

Hi Mike,

Sorry, but I must tell you that you are quite mistaken when you assert that there is no help for AVP and therefore, therapy will not work. I have seen many cases where Behavior Modification and Cognitive Behavior Therapy worked quite well in reducing the symptoms of AVP and helped people become successful in their personal and work lives.

Dr. Schwartz

Don't Bother - ItsMike - Aug 16th 2008

If you have Avp you're going to have it for life. Therapy won't work for the simple reason that going through it is worse than having the disorder. Tell your boyfriend to get a job as a security guard, then go find another boyfriend.

in response to spouse really needing support comment - martha - Aug 14th 2008
i have been married for 26 years-my spouse began obvious signs of apd after 15 years of marriage-since then, he has seen more than 5 psychiatrists, taken every med known to man, had shock treatment....i am disghusted with the lack of adequate support and treatment from the medical community-i too, struggle with what to do for him-my family is in shambles, emotionally and financially-i have been supportive to my spouse beyond belief-regardless of my love and support, my spouse turns every word or action by myself into attack-he does the same with our children, his family, and anyone he (rarely)comes in contact with-he is in total isolation except maintains a constant fantasy life via communication with the internet-he is obsessed-the computer nurtures his illness, and prevents him from confronting the disease completely-it is his addiction-i love him, but have tried to leave feeling responsible for perpetuating the problem-i am tired, frustrated, and ashamed that i have watched this disease  destroy his life, my life and especially my childrens life-where is the help? - there is not even any counselling for those who have to endure living with a family member inflicted-it is a disgrace!!!

Where do I find Ask Dr. Schwartz? - Nelly - Jul 24th 2008

Thank you Dr Schwartz but where do I find the "Ask Dr Schwartz" option?  I also took your advice and joined the online community.  Thanks again - Nelly

Editor's Note: "Ask Dr. Schwartz" can be found here

Avoidant Personality Disorder - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Jul 22nd 2008

Nelly, please click onto the "Ask Dr. Schwartz" where I will respond to some of your questions.

Also, please consider going to our Online Support Community where you can discuss these issues and get advice from others and from me.

Dr. Schwartz

boyfriend with APD - frustrated - Jul 22nd 2008

I've been in a long distance relationship for several months with a  wonderful man.  We both care about each other deeply.  He was diagnosed a few years ago with APD and, it's safe to say, he has some DPD characteristics as well.  Even in a long distance relationship, it gets exhausting for me.  I find myself in the role of girlfriend part time and therapist the rest of the time.  I feel like I'm constantly having to guide him and nudge him along.  But, right now I'm willing to hang in there in hopes of seeing the person he really is instead of the one who has no confidence in himself or his self-worth - seeing the man who can make decisions for himself. 

He started seeing a therapist again to deal with his issues and horribly abusive past.  On the one hand I'm concerned because the only reason he's in therapy is because he knows it will never work between us if he doesn't get "better" (for lack of a better term).  On the other hand, at least he's in therapy.  However, his therapist is a social worker.  It seems that more and more I'm becoming the focus of their sessions instead of looking at his thought processes and behaviors and how to positively change those (there's been virtually no discussion about his childhood, parents, etc.).  He shares with me some of the content of their sessions; it seems that he's relaying information based on how he perceived a given interaction between us - although not always how I perceived it - and instead of focusing on what he may have been feeling, how he may have behaved, really just digging deeper and asking more questions, the therapist will say something like, "I don't see anything wrong with that".  (This may not be making sense without examples but I'll start with this for now - maybe some examples next time.)  Anyway, a few sessions ago both he and I felt she didn't have the background to deal with his issues (it seems like she constantly refers to the DSMIV for guidance during their sessions).  She brought up the issue of meds. for his anxiety and he said she was insistent.  When he first told me, he was opposed to the idea of meds. but after he and I talked it through he agreed it was worth a try.  Well, she never brought it up again!  I'm actually concerned at this point that she's not helping him at all and may be doing more harm than good.  Soon, hopefully, he'll be moving on to seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist.

I just don't know what to do.  What's my role in this?  How do I find the line between being helpful and supportive as his girlfriend and not his "therapist"?  How long do I put my life on hold?  I feel like I have to push him to do things or they won't happen (like seeing a therapist) but then it makes him that much more dependent on me.  It makes me feel like I'm controlling his life.  As I said, I'm not ready to throw in the towel - but I need help!   I'm glad I found this site. Any advice is appreciated.

Thank you Dr Schwartz and insightful unnamed - Nelly - Jul 19th 2008

Thank you both so much for your words of support & truth. You are right unnamed, it is such a painful process. At present this man who once told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me is claiming that he just doesn't feel any chemistry and loves me only as a lovely human being. He has no concept of the hurt he is inflicting with his cold words - this is his only explanation, nothing else. It is so hard to keep from feeling worthless. I have made mistakes in the past falling for emotionally unavailable men but had done substantial inner work on myself and was in a very good place when I met my current partner. I am devasted that my own patterns have not changed regardless of my hard efforts, its is so very hard not to feel flawed. I am a very capable person in all other areas of my life and I now feel that I should settle for being a stable single person in order to avoid making the same mistakes again. I am so very hurt by his indifference and coldness towards me after I have shown so much love and patience toward him. I do take courage from your words affirming I have done the right thing - I know I have. I just feel so angry at having fallen so low, I have given him so many chances previously to get out of the relationship and he didn't take them. Now he so coldly tells me he feels no chemistry. Any partners/spouses of Avpd'ers please let me know if you would like to correspond? Nelly

To Alan - Spouse Needing Support - Jul 17th 2008

I have an MA in counseling and worked in a diagnostic and treatment role for 12 years in a community mental health center. I appreciate your concern and words of clarificatiion. He does not meet the DSM for paranoid personality disorder, but meets ALL for avoidant with paranoid features.

Thank you for your support!

To Blonde... - - Jul 17th 2008

Could you give us an update? Your letter was so helpful to me and well written. How is therapy going? Is he able to be confronted and use insight to make changes, or does he recoil and dismiss the therapist's views?


To Nelly... - - Jul 17th 2008

You are doing the right thing for you and your girls! You are stronger than you think for taking the first step! I know this is agonizing, but you have to save yourself and your family! He is going to end up slowly killing your sense of value and self worth. Don't go down in the ship with him; you ARE a survivor. The future of your girls, as well as yours, is just waiting for you. The grief WILL pass, and then you will find someone who is capable of GIVING and receiving love as you are. You have done ALL you can. He is broken, but you are NOT! You have to face that it is not HE that you love, but the vision that you have for him if he were healthy. YOU can not make him whole. You will begin to grieve the loss of your envisioned future, and then will see the cracks that you worked so hard to fill, and the dream that you tried to create by yourself. It is exhausting work! Don't waste your is right around the corner. Pray to yor higher power, ongoing, and take deep breaths. When you feel as though you can't go on, look into the faces of your beautiful daughters and see the potential for a family full of love and peace. You can use them as your "true north". Just make sure that you don't lean on them; you are to take care of them...not the other way around. I am sending you strength!

To: Broken Hearted and Spouse Needing Support, - - Jul 17th 2008

Broken Hearted and Spouse Needing Support,

Just below the comments sign there is a link to mental help support community. There, by posting, you can get support, advice and information from membes of our community who are in similar circumstances and you can get support from me and from the other two mental health experts on the site full time, Mark and Natalie.

I also want to point out that diagnosis is a very difficult thing to do. You are both assuming that these men suffer from Avoidant Personality and I am not so sure. For example, Needing Support, it seems like it might be possible that your husband suffers from a Paranoid Personality Disorder. That is very different and might explain why he is so difficult and suspicious.

For both of you, patience can go only go just so far and divorce and separation are the only way. Remember, you owe to your selves and your children to do what makes sense and protect your selves.

Broken Hearted, it sounds like you did the correct thing for your self and your children.


Broken Hearted - Nelly - Jul 17th 2008

Dear Dr Schwartz and any other partners/spouses of avoidants

I have posted on this site several times previously. I have been involved with an avoidant man (undiagnosed but ticks all the boxes) for 18 months now.  I love him very much and in the beginning he was very much himself and both emotionally and physically intimate with me.  Sadly contact with his family after 5 years of estrangement has triggered his avoidant behaviour and he slowly shut down on me bit by bit.

He is a very lovely person who sadly was severely shamed ny his mother as a child and adolescent.  Because of my deep love for him I have done all I can to understand his condition and try to let him feel safe and loved so that he will come out again. Sadly, the deprivation of emotional and physical intimacy has taken its toll on me and I myself have become very depressed. My pain only adds to his avoidancy.

I have two young daughters (not his) and my emotional wellbeing has a direct bearing on them and so for this reason and my own happiness I have had to end the relationship.  It is breaking my heart as I am in love with him and wish I could support him further until he feels safe again but I'm all out of steam.

Its awful as he has moved into a spare room as it is going to take time for him to organise things in order to leave.  The pain I feel is unbearable and of course he cannot comfort me,  just stonewalls me and becomes incredibly anxious and uncomfortable.  Then I feel guilty for adding to his avoidancy and shame.

I think corresponding with other suffering partners and spouses would help - anyone out there? Can you offer any advice to help get me through this very difficult time Dr Schwartz? 

Thank you


For Dr. Schwartz... - Spouse needing support - Jul 17th 2008
I have read EVERTHING I can find on the internet, plus Kantor's book called Distancing. I thought my new husband had sensative personality style, but now know that he is the poster child for APD with depression and paranoid features. He was an alcoholic, but has been dry for 10 years with the help of AA. He saw a Psych. who put him on prosaic and trazadone, but did not require any kind of therapy. He was medicating his APD with beer, but now is substituting his pills for his booze with NO insight or understanding of how it feels to be opposite him in a relationship. The meds have taken the edge off of his paranoia and depression, but his agression, both directly and indirectly, as well as his hypervigilence during ANY interaction is crushing me. Do I become MUTE to dodge this bullet? He will even interpret my silence and assign meaning and motivation. If I respond providing my true thoughts and feelings, he just negates what I say and tells me that this isn't what I was truly thinking. HE GETS ME GOING AND COMING. I understand that this is projection from his past and he is giving me a window into how it felt growing up in his home, but "I get it already". If his self-esteem is SO impoverished that he can not "hear" any input or insight without feeling pulverized, how does one EVER make changes? Do I just continue to provide unconditional acceptance? How do I keep my self- eteem intact day after day? Sometimes his words cut like a knife. I keep telling myself that it isn't about me, but this can wear you down. I continue to offer affection, companionship, and space when he needs it, and take over ALL responsibilities in our life due to his inability to function after work. I am strong and independant, but this is a lot. I understand that this is entrenched in his personality structure, so I guess I need to lose any expectations and "field that ball as it comes to me". Wow!

Avoidant Spouse - Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, PhD - Jul 15th 2008

I want to urge you to join our online support community at this site. By posting there you will get answers to your questions and lots of support from other members.

Dr. Schwartz

In response to - Spouse... reallyneeding support - Jul 15th 2008

I have just discovered this sight. I wish we could meet or talk on the phone; I do not type well. I am in a similar situation and have only been married since September of 07. My husband has AVD but doesn't know it. If I even begin to discuss surface symptoms, he FREAKS OUT and leaves the house, not returning till late at night when he thinks I'll be asleep or locks himself in our home office. He is in a successful IT position which provides enough isolation to function, but when he comes home he is socially drained and "spent" with no desire to interact emotionally or sexually. He is hypervigillant during every onversation that we have, ready to pounce on EVERY word and challenge EVERY motivation behind my thoughts, so I feel myself systematically shutting down. I walk the line between feeling empathic and codependant. If I patiently and loving attempt to discuss possible faulty thinking patterns, he blows up either directly or passively and becomes even MORE avoidant than he was. Does your husband ever distort the content of your conflicts or series of events when conflicts arise. I can't find this in the literature. My spouse will actually change my spoken words and my behavioral responses when reporting back the conflict.  Please keep writing. Knowledge is power and support is powerful!

Shame and isolation - Cheryl - Jun 23rd 2008

 I have such a problem with shame, it keeps me awake at night and ruins most of the day too. I'm switching to different anti-depressants which are recommended for OCD which I also suffer from. It'll be interesting to see if they help. I didn't realise shame was linked to personality disorders i thought it was the OCD related, so that's given something else to think about.

Isn't AvPD so isolating and painful?  It has helped to read about other peoples experience of it.

Blonde - - Jun 10th 2008

My heart goes out to all spouses who are living with a husband/wife with APD. I recently married a pediatrician two years ago, whom I thought was going to be my perfect partner. We are both loving, giving, hard working professionals with a christian upbringing. Immediately after relocating to his town after saying " I do", I began seeing a part of him that was clearly not in touch with reality. I have struggled with his inability to bond with me, his depression, his shame, his low self-esteem issues, his self-consciousness, his moodiness, lack of normal communication skills, and the list could go on forever. Most devastating to our marriage, his lack of ability to defend himself/ our marriage to anybody as well as have boundaries that protect our marriage. I have spent the last two years saying, "Are you kidding me? This is not healthy thinking." And, of course, he cannot see it. We recently began therapy together to save our marriage, and had to take personality tests. He was formally diagnosed with APD. I feel so cheated. I have now spent countless hours researching this disorder so that I can better understand him, as well as be a better wife, but I now have more fears than ever. This is devastating to all involved.

Child abuse: answer to Sabrina's letter....... - Robin - Jun 8th 2008

Dear Sabrina:

What struck me most about your letter is that you do not recognize that your Uncle's behavior was sexual abuse. And, a telling signal regarding society at large and how abuse against children is DENIED too often... apparently no one else caught onto this, for they have not written a post yet! If you heard about another child/teen, etc being forced to completely undress so the Uncle could wash the person "from head to toe" wouldn't you define that as a horrific violation of that child or teenager? You do not specify the age at which this happened; it actually doesn't is Sexual Abuse. Forcing someone to undress is such an abuse, washing the person in the "guise of cleaning" is sexual abuse. You are, and were, in denial because your family pretended it wasn't sexual abuse. My step-grandmother did this "cleaning ritual" and my own mother believed that it, and any fondling was "no big deal" because women can't molest a child? wrong! Well, I am 46 now and better educated; we MUST recognize the abuse so we don't allow it to happen to our own children. My mother didn't recognize it for what it was, because it had obviously happened to her and she either blocked it, or pretended it wasn't abuse to lessen the pain/humiliation. When you can recognize the abuse in your childhood, and that you were not protected by your sick family members, you can parent yourself and STOP any abuse for future generations. Please see someone about your childhood; any man washing you like that has definitely caused you extreme pain and suffering. It is time to get past the denial of the deliberate self-gratification this person got from your innocence. Get out of the denial, and that is the first step to healing. Your mind treats abusive situations as normal, because life went on as normal in your family, even while you were abused...this is what causes the severest emotional disorders with doesn't allow you to grieve, or to say "no, this was WRONG", it silences you, conveniently so the deviants can keeping doing these things. Your body KNOWS that uncle's actions were abusive. Good luck to you. I had to take Abnormal child psychology courses in college to finally realize how sick my family was, and to heal....that was in my 30s. I wasted all my life up until then; it isn't worth it, really. My ultimate healing: I divorced my family that had caused me so much suffering. After all, we are born of a sperm and an egg, that is it, if your parents are evil, they do not deserve to have a presence in your life.

Long term avoidant - Samantha - Apr 17th 2008
In this article its mentioned Social Phobia and Avoidant PD are different even though what I have read about the two, the symptoms are almost identical or are identical. This article says Avoidant PD is lifelong, I have read Social Phobia is also lifelong. Either way whatever I've got has been long...for almost 35 years long. In my opinion the symptoms have slowly gotten worse, gradual more and more isolation and aloneness and more avoiding..gradual more and more. The avoidant social phobic symtoms have definately not improved, they have worsened. I have tried things, jobs, places, people...I think its turned into 50%+ Agraphobic symptoms. Its the avoiding of people. Can a sufferer have both AvPD and Social Phobia? When I walk into a room of strangers, its hard to put into words how that makes me feel. Great fear of people in a situation like that. Fear of ridicule, fear of abuse...I dont know how to overcome this. I am now aged 51, in my opinion it has a slow worsening of the avoiding and symptoms. In another 20 years how will I be? This must stem from childhood abuse. When I was child my mother was continually verbally abusive and in her actions (not sexually abuse) but in other ways. Shocking, it was shocking. Its a core emotional pain, I think this article is correct its about a shame thing. The shame thing comes from my mothers verbal abuse in my childhood. Children believe what they are told, they know no better.

Avoidant personality disorder - Gabrielle - Apr 15th 2008

I am a 23 year old woman who was just diagnosed with this disorder after being in therapy for nearly a year. I really struggle with depression and anxiety but these issues have been in my life for as long as I can remember.

I'm surprised to read that some people with this disorder have actually had relationships. I have not had one relationship in my life and it doesn't seem that that is going to ever happen either.  I am desperate to be in a relationship. I would love to be able to date and do all those other things, and yet when a guy asks me for coffee or something, I feel completely full of shame and turn his offer down. I never knew why this was and everyone kept saying that I'm so strange, but I could not get past that shame. I also am anxious when it comes having to present something for work or even be in a room with people...people I know or don't know. I have no friends. None at all. I just feel like I'm judged all the time and I'm in such pain I cannot possibly deal with so many things.

It's discouraging to find that there is not a lot of information about this disorder out there.


PAM - SHAME - Nelly - Mar 12th 2008

Hi Pam

I was checking the site to see if my previous posts had any response (not as yet). Anyway, I read your post and it upset me to hear of the pain and suffering you endured as a child. It is similar to what my partner has suffered. He is a wonderful man whom I feel has been robbed of 'himself' by the harsh maternal treatment he had from a small child to adolesence.

I have childhood issues too, but mostly in the 'emotional deprivation' department. Sadly his shame based issues trigger my insecurities and I feel we are in a check-mate situation - two very lovely people imprisoned in our own issues and unable to 'connect' with each other without triggering the other's lifetraps. However, we do love each other very much and are both determined to challenge our own issues so that we can reach a more 'secure' relationship together. In my previous posts I was very frustrated and had just about given up hope but now I feel ready to fight my own demons again and stop focusing on my partner's so much.

I cannot challenge his issues for him, only my own and so recently I restarted CBT based therapy. Fortunately my therapist is open to other methods also and knows I have done a lot of successful 'core' work on myself in the past. He gave me a long schema questionnaire to answer (i went over it several times over a few days to be absolutely sure I had answered each one honestly and accurately) which he then assessed. I had the results yesterday. I scored 60% in emotional deprivation, 20% in abandonment and 20% in defectiveness/shame and less than 5% in Subjugation.

The wonderful news is, that several years ago in the same test my abandonment score was about 60% and my subjugation score was 75%. At the time it was my deepest lifetrap, it completely overshadowed my NOW major issue of Emotional Deprivation. Subjugation means negating ones own needs to look after the needs of others at the expense of one's time, energy and resources. I have chipped away at my subjugation lifetrap for many years, can you imagine my joy at finding out yesterday it is no longer a major issue in my life? Its true! 'takers'don't come near me any more, I can spot them coming a mile off and obviously don't give out those signals of being a 'doormat' anymore so they don't even try to walk over me. I still manage to find time for the important people in my life though so I am also able to discern genuine need of a good friend from 'needy takers'. Of course now the focus is on my emotional deprivation.

To get to the point, I asked my therapist if he thought it was possible to tackle even the deepest core issues i.e.for my partner and I, these are shame and emotional deprivation. (Sadly the more abuse we suffered in childhood the deeper the core lifetrap is, so we have to work really hard to challenge these, which is why often the deepest get left till last!) His answer was 'of course, you are living proof look at your low subjugation score and a 2 thirds reduction in your abandonment score. If you could do it with those, then why not with your emotional deprivation lifetrap which is not as severe as your subjugation lifetrap was?" Of course this news was obvious but actually hearing it from a professional reinforced my successes for me and filled me with hope and courage to continue 'chipping'!

I also asked him about avoidant tendencies and shame based issues (thinking more of my partner). He said the same rule of thumb applied, absolutely ALL issues can be challenged if we are prepared to do the long hard work it takes.

The book we have been working from is called "Reinventing your Life" by Jeffrey E Young PhD and Janet S Klosko PhD. It covers 11 core lifetraps including "I'm Worthless" The Defectiveness (Shame) Lifetrap. I have followed programs in many books over the years but this is by far my favourite and the one that I have had the most success with. Each lifetrap is explained in detail with 3 real case studies to read. There are schema questions to answer (the same ones I did with my therapist) you can then add your scores up and find out which are your most severe core lifetraps. Then follows a variety of practical things we can do in our everyday lives to continuously challenge our core issues and gradually reduce them. If you follow the program it REALLY works! Also my therapist has me write down my deepest and most repetative negative thoughts and score them 1 to 10 (1 high 10 low), next I have to write down challenges to these thoughts and keep challenging until my score has reduced. In an extra column I write down which schema (core lifetrap) the negative thought originated from. If the though is too hard to challenge he has me 'distract' myself by getting absorbed in a task i.e. clearing a cupboard, making shopping list or counting backward from 1000 in 3's (its impossible for the mind to wander if its focused on that!).

Its pretty dedicated stuff, I work hard at it and having my therapist gives me someone to report back too, It makes me want to reduce my negative scores by the time I see him next. Working through the book I mentioned would be something to do with a good friend if therapy was too expensive. Previously, I worked hard at it on my own but I find having a sounding board (my therapist) accelerates the process but a wise, encouraging and openminded friend could easily replace a therapist.

I am now working through the Emotional Deprivation chapter and am going to start chipping away at that. Slowly but surely I will decrease that and my other issues too. My previous successes have given me great hope that I and anyone can change negative ways of thinking about ourselves if we really want to.

Through my partner, I see how difficult shame and defectivness issues are to challenge because shutting down and avoidancy are such a huge part of the learned adaptive behaviour since childhood. It is my hope and belief that through working on myself and demanding less of him emotionally that he will feel 'safer' to come out of his shell more and in his own time and will hopefully be more inspired to challenge his own issues. If in the future I find we are too far apart then I hope I will be strong enough by then to know it is time to leave the relationship. (At this point I truly don't want that to happen though!)

Pam you are already one step ahead - YOU KNOW what your main core lifetrap is (many people don't and therefore cannot challenge themselves). I know this doesn't address your specific request for a response from someone who has suffered similar circumstances to you but I see a similar pain in my partner and I felt inspired to write to you. I hope there is something of help for you here and anyone else reading this post. Best of luck with the EDMR Pam, I never stuck with it myself but think I might give it another go. I hear it can be very beneficial.

Apologies for the long post! Wishing us all the best of luck in challenging the darker places of ourselves.


Editor's Note:  There is a Wise Counsel interview with Dr. Jeffrey Young on Mental Help Net that you might want to listen to.  He's got a great version of therapy to offer people who deal with chronic interpersonal problems.  

Shame - Pam - Mar 11th 2008
I was abused severly by my mother growing up for 17 yrs.I was called evrything you could imagine.I was told I was not wanted she would tell me she hated me and a dog was worth more than I was. I never new what the word love meant.I was beaten almost everyday most of the times with a buckle end of a belt till she was to tired to hit anymore,It would bring the blood then I was to go stand in the tub while she poured alchole down my back.This only one of the things.I could write a book.I was melested .I married abusive husband and the story goes on and on.The result of all of this Ive grown to fill shame,worthless.I fill so usless and cannot except love because I dont know how and I dont trust it.I go to therapy and he is doing the EMDR.I dont know why but I cant do it.I dont fill anything.I cannot put myself in those situations again.Its only like bad memories that I cant connect with.He tells me to take my adultself back to those situations and protect that child.I cant fill or relive anything.Im aware of everything that goes on in the room and emotionally Im fine.Has anyone else went through anything like this?I know this is kinda different than what most have been writing about but I need help.Dose anyone relate to this?

Carole, my heart breaks for you. - Nelly - Feb 12th 2008

Hi Carole

You posted your comments last year but I hope you still check the site from time to time. I can only imagine how you must now feel after 16 years with a man who suffers this disorder and raising 4 kids too. And there's me hanging onto every possible thread I can because I love my partner so very much. I had even thought that perhaps if we had a child together (he has no children of his own) that the emotional connection he would feel with his own child would bring him out of his shell.

After reading your post, I do realise how deluded I really am, I think this disorder is too severe to ever get beyond. WE can see how wonderful and talented they are but sadly they cannot.

You must have amazing strength and courage and I know you will have done it for your children as well as hoping that one day the man you know lives in there somewhere would come out to be with you. The time is now for you to find the happiness in life you so much deserve and if it helps -your story has inspired me to begin the letting go process sooner rather than later. I think this is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done, I am only 14months down the line, how oh how do you go about it after 16 years of this pain and emotional rejection?

I'd love to hear back from you Carole to see how things have progressed for you since last year and for any pearls of wisdom you can offer me.

I do apologise to any AVPD sufferers who are reading these posts, it is far from a criticism of you, I can only imagine that all sufferers are truly very caring, loving and talented people behind the wall of shame. Many therapists say that if the socially phobic could rein in their anxiety enough to function, they would help make the world a better place.

Good luck to us all, sufferers and partners of sufferers alike. Nelly

Can the granite wall be breached? - Nelly - Feb 12th 2008

Hi Kerensa and Mimi

Kerensa I sympathise with you. I met a man last January whom I felt/still feel is the most wonderful man I have ever met. Trouble is, having learned more about his shame based avoidant personality order, I don't think this man will ever come out of his shell, he too has undergone extensive therapy and takes medication.

Before we got too serious he was fine, open, caring and we made love like nothing I have ever experienced. Shortly after he moved in with me and my two daughters he began to close up. For the 1st 6 months I was happy, positive and supportive, thinking that if he trusted me enough and when stressful situations changed for him, he would come out. Not so! 14months down the line I am exhausted, my own self-esteem as a woman has plummetted and I have piled on 2 stone in weight, we only ever make love if I initiate and probably only every six weeks, there is no longer any emotional intimacy on his part. It is like trying to communicate with a granite wall. The more I push for his attention in any way the more he closes up and reinforces his wall. On a rational level he understands my pain and that it has something to do with him not meeting my emotional needs, but I can see in his eyes that emotionally he has no idea why I hurt so much and only sees me now as a source of potential pain to be avoided. Its so very sad. I wrote him a letter in mid november of course being very careful not to critisize him in any way and told him so when I gave it to him. Guess when he finally read it and only under extreme pressure from me? One week ago, a whole three months after giving it. Can you imagine the frustration waiting for a response all that time to something I had put so much time and effort into? The response when it came was a simple "I agree with everything you say" that was it! My self worth as a woman is now zero.

Of course I have my own issues but in normal circumstances these are not triggered so often. I am currently looking into my own behaviour patterns especially where it comes to men, I am thinking of attending CODA as I definitely tick many of the boxes of a co-dependent personality type. Can you imagine two personality orders trying to live together, no chance of survival!

Thankfully he is going away for 6 weeks to do some work which he really enjoys. I love this man but I cannot wait for the relief of some time to focus on me and re-gaining my self-esteem and sense of self. I have a feeling that if I resume the relationship after getting better again the same pattern will repeat. Sadly Kerensa I agree with Mimi, get out sooner rather than later and save yourself a lot of unneccessary pain and heartache. I am now in the position of having to end a relationship with a man I totally love but I know it can never work, sadly his Avoidant personality disorder is too severe. I could shoot his mother for what she has done to this poor guy as a child to have fostered such damage in an otherwise, beautiful, intelligent, talented and amazing man. I am truly devastated.

Mimi any words of wisdom and advice you can offer me would be gratefully received, could you perhaps share some of your own experiences?

Good luck to us all in finding balance and peace. Nelly

say uncle - mimi - Dec 13th 2007

dear kerensa

i wasted 10 years of my life on, what appears to be the same exact relationship you are suffering through right now. i have learned much about myself, love, patience & compassion but things will never change & there are things & people in this world that will never me. learn from my experience & let go of the impossible illusion. you deserve better.

sincerely mimi

sex? relationships? help! - kerensa - Dec 3rd 2007

i recently met a man whom this describes to a t. he's pretty aware of it and has been in and out of therapy and would like to be in it again soon (when finances permit).

i'm 40, he's 43. i am extremely attracted to him in every possible way. i seem to have seriously earned his trust. he knows how i feel about him. i really do understand his problem with this disorder and his other problems, not just saying this, i think i have a parent with a similar problem and i'm very empathetic in general. i'm very careful not to criticise or etc., but im also honest with him. he seems to like me to the extent someone like this can. i tend to be a realist, but i don't think "he's not that into you" is the issue here.

here's the problem. i'm crazy about this guy. he's aware of how i feel. not sure about whether there's any hope for this or not.  

also. this is going to sound weird. how does one go about having sex with someone like this? um, we've done this maybe twice before, very early on before we became this close, and alcohol was involved. but since then, it seems like we've become this platonic "habit." normally i'd just assume the "not that into you" thing but honestly i'm pretty sure that's not it. i'm a little shy myself, also being the girl puts me in a position i've never been in before. i'm pretty uninhibited about this in general and would never make a guy feel insecure or inadequate in any situation, least of all this one. what do i do?  

Every day is a struggle - 23 and hurting - Dec 1st 2007

For quite some time now I've felt so alone, undeserving, and incapable of having a friend or being able to socialize. This cursed feeling eats away at me and most opportunities I have for conversing with another, I will completely blow because of this extreme paranoia and fear that person(s) will not like me and think I'm stupid, or that what I say may not be appropriate. Sometimes I'll sit and think that everyone is always talking bad about me. I grew up on Disney movies and that quote from Bambi was always in my head; "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". So I tried to adhere to that and found myself filtering everything and really just not saying a thing. While I sat and let others bad mouth one another or talk those nasty thoughts, my response was always, "That's mean, don't be mean" and all that time I never truly voiced an opinion. I laughed and never made it a point to figure out and voice my own opinion(s)...I was such an ungrateful girl growing up and still don't think I truly appreciate the gifts of life. I have always looked at others and thought I wish I were like her or had the things he/they did and I was and sometimes still find myself caught up in a lie, lying to everyone around me about my experiences, trying to boost me up, to fit in and belong. 

I truly feel "the cat's got my tongue". And you know if the L.F. Baum or Victor FLeming combined the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man into one needy character, that monster would be me; in dire need of a brain, a heart, and some courage. 

It's so bad that it's gotten to the point where because I've conditioned myself to hold back and not say a thing, I also feel now that I've dwelled so much on these fears and inadequacies, I do not have any original thoughts and have become embarassingly simple-minded. I feel I have the conversation skills of a toddler and that when I do speak, it's like the most dreadful broken record. I'm driving myself crazy trying to flip the switch. I'll try to put myself out there and reach out to others and listen, and physically I may be present, but emotionally I'm so caught up in the suffocating, worrying, APD mode that I get nowhere and offer no substance to the group. and then the vicious cycle continues and I beat myself up for not talking, not socializing and it hurts.  it's sooooooo difficult to dig deep within to change the person that I've chose to become, to change those debilitating, cancerous thoughts that rip apart the chances I have to develop any type of relationship...I want things to happen over night, lol and am trying to learn to acknowledge the "baby steps" and progress...

To Renee - alice - Sep 28th 2007
If you ever come back to this site: you are smart enough to know everything that really matters. If people try to make you feel bad because "you're just not smart enough," maybe that has more to do with them being jerks than you not knowing how to do nuclear physics.

note to Sabrina - julie - Aug 28th 2007

My Dear Sabrina,

I am not a mental health professional, but I am a very wise woman.   And your story has touched my heart.  It looks to me as if you have taken the first step towards recovery!    You recognize and admit your weaknesses (fussing at your little nephew, bitterness and jealousy, lack of initiative, etc.) - that is the hardest part for most people.  Yet you,  at the tender age of 22 years, are already doing this!  

I too have weaknesses (impatience, ingratitude to God, overly concerned with the signs of age on my face and body, etc.).  When I see myself thinking along these lines, I do two things:  (1) I try NOT act on them and (2) I ask God to straighten out  my thoughts.   Really, it is like learning to ice skate:  it's practice, practice and more practice.    And then, one day, you find that your weakness is fading; and then, later on,  it is gone.  And you are free of it!

And I too had an absolutely miserable childhood.   I stuttered so badly when I was in grammar school that I could not talk:   it was so humiliating - and of course, all the kids at school thought it was hilarious.    My mother was a nightmare.     And oh, I was so shy.   But shyness was one of the weaknesses which I first worked on.    I understood that (in my  case at least),  it stemmed from being overly concerned about  what others thought of me.    I figured out that  really and truly, MY only obligation is  to   do what is right.    What others think  of me is relatively unimportant.

And do you know what I ended up doing?   This little girl who couldn't talk in grammar school?   This little girl who was so humiliated as a child that she just wanted to hide?  I became a successful trial lawyer!     And do you know that many of the trial lawyers I knew told me they too were shy as children:  one of the reasons we became trial lawyers was to prove to ourselves that we could do it.  

So please believe me when I say you do not have ANY weakness which you can not overcome!

And about your (and my) miserable childhoods:    The most important thing we can do about miserable childhoods is:   let go it!     Let go of the past!

Your life is ahead of you.    You are made in God's Image!   Because of that, you have great value.  Don't compare yourself with others!   There are always other women who are smarter, prettier, younger, more talented, richer, etc., that we are.     But this is not the source of our value and worth:   our value and worth come from the fact that we are made in God's Image.   And we have the gifts which God decided to give us.  He gave you gifts which He means for you to find and to develop.    And when you finally understand  all this - you will find the jealousy in your own heart disappearing.   And then, one day you will find that the jealousy is all gone!   And you will be free of it!  

Sometimes bad things happen to us to train us up in the right way to go.   I think the bad things in my own childhood made me a stronger person.   The bad things also taught me to be a sympathetic person!    I wouldn't have felt for your pain and humiliation  if I hadn't experienced pain and humiliation in my own childhood!   Do you see?   You can become a stronger person because of the bad things in your own childhood.    Perhaps there is a specific thing which God wanted you to learn from it!    And you can learn to be sympathetic to other peoples' pain.

Finally, do read the Chronicles of Narnina by  C.S. Lewis.   I think they will really help you.   They sure did help me!

Be of good cheer, Sabrina!   



Yeah. - Dannie - Aug 8th 2007
I avoid people but I don't feel bad when people critiscise me. I also have a lot of eye contact but it's more of intimidating eye contact. I'm 15 and I've been seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist for about 6 months now but I have to wait another 6 months before they can be sure if I have antisocial personality disorder. I thought before it might just be avoidant personality disorder but now I see it doesn't really fit me.

This disorder is killing me slowly... - Sabrina - Aug 5th 2007

I just cannot relax. I get so mad at everyone, even my 1 year-old nephew. If he does something that irritates me, I snap on him and yell at him instantly. People just don't understand what it is like to walk in my shoes. i am a bitter, jealous person. I don't have the courage and self-confidence or self-motivation to do anything on my own. I'm 22 years-old and finally got my first boyfriend, but I'm about to lose him because he says that I cannot connect with him emotionally and I don't communicate well with him. But these are things that he has known since the beginning, and things that he saidhe would help me work on. We've been together since Easter weekend, and its falling apart now. I know that I will eventually lose him, as this is a recurring pattern with all of my relationships with everybody. But I am mad at myself because I can't change ways about me that have been instilled in my personality for so long. I didn't ask to be shy, nor angry, nor scared or fearful. I just came out to be this way. I am riddle with so much shame that I am living a lie. I want so bad to just be able to relax, to let go, and just breathe, but i always feel like I'm under a constant spotlight, always on, no rest when I'm in public or around people, even my own immediate family. I feel that my life has been a waste, and don't understand why God has not rescued me yet or why I was made this way in the first place. I wasn't physically or sexually abused as a child, but I felt extremely ashamed of myself always. I had roaches in my house and people knew about it, and this is why to do this day I don't allow that i am trying to get close to to come over my house. I had rats and mice living in my house. People at school would say that my house looked like a shack. i was overweight as a child, i was sheltered (kept in the house a lot and not allowed outside the gates that much), and whenever I would go over my cousin's house I was treated like a transient, a filthy person. When I would leave, my uncle would take all the blankets and sheets off the bed to wash them. and one time he actually took a wash cloth, told me to take off all of my clothes, and he washed me up from head to toe, as if I wasn't doing it right myself. It humiliated me so bad, I mean it hurt me emotionally. But I didn't say anything. I never stood up for myself, i couldn't. All I could do was stand there and take it. but now that I'm 22 years-old, i am still in pursuit of courage. I have lacked this all of my life. I am a college drop out becasue i am too shy to go back to school. I dont like being in classrooms and feeling uncomfortable around people. I want my education so badly.

fear and awe of years of lost memories - maryracette - Jul 7th 2007
added:  I am afraid of these lost memories yet I want to know about them.  Will they manifest themselfves someday and will it affect me negatively or positively.  Is it better not to know?

- mary racette - Jul 7th 2007

I am 46 yeas old and have lost at least 30 years of my memories.  It desterbes me.  Should it?  My therapist has told me don't worry about them if they need to be remembered they will reviel themselfes via the sub consciouse.  What is your opinion of this rational?


- - Jun 15th 2007
Whose help should I seek for?

RE:I would like an answer - Stabo - Mar 18th 2007 - LoreleiPixie - Jun 14th 2007

In regards to your comment about psychologists:

" I suspect that the blindness has to do with the personal life experience of most psychological practitioners: If you've never been on the receiving end of group mistreatment firsthand, then you don't really, in your gut, believe the callousness of ordinary people and you unconsciously decide that the sufferer's complaints reveal their hypersensitivity and inability to cope, rather than showing you a universal tendency in humankind that you've been fortunate enough to never have to see."

 Whilst you have excellent points about the cruelty of the group on an individual, I think that just as you are accusing psychology of generalising, you are in fact doing the same thing yourself. The above statement may be true of some practitioners, just as with all professions, some people are in it as "just a job", or for heirarchial value, and others genuinely want to help.

I think you may find that most people in the mental health industry have experienced some form of mental trauma, emotional or psychological problem themselves through the course of their lives, and have thus sought to study psychology to first better understand themselves and once they have resolved their issues, they want to use the knowledge that helped them work through their problems to help others. Especially those who specialise in a particular disorder.

I have personally had a great deal of trauma through my school life, I was bullied and teased to an excruciating level in school growing up with the notion that I was too ugly to be seen in public or to ever consider having a romantic relationship. I had a very low self esteem in school, but I did not have Avoidant Personality Disorder, why? Because I have a different coping mechanism to the criteria met for Aviodant Personality Disorder, and my coping mechanism was to develop an outward personality that the teasing didn't bother me, and that I was confident enough to at least show outwardly that I could make friends (which I did) and that I was happy and fine... i was not happy and fine however, I went home and cried everyday, I even attempted suicide twice, and wound up using self mutilation as an outlet for my pain...which is another story alltogether.

Sometimes people in group situations are too afraid to see what they want to see, and so see what others tell them to see. In my final year of high-school, my entire life changed, simply because I met a guy from another school who didn't have the same historical view of me as the people at my school did (I attended the same shcool area from kindergraten to 12th grade, so the same kids all through school). When I left school, I was scouted for modeling, to which my reply was "Are you sure you mean me?", and I have now modelled my way through university to my now current stage of postgraduate study in Psychology. I still to this day have no idea why the people at my school chose to call me ugly all through school and make me feel worthless... I was spit on, had gum put through my hair, beat up, had things thrown at me, humiliation of a sexual nature...the list goes on. I had some serious emotional and self esteem issues to work through, especially in regard to my self-harming activities, but I could have given up a lot sooner had I not sought psychological help and I probably wouldn't be as happy as I am today.

Strangely enough, some of those very people who were the instigators of the cruelty towards me at school have since approached me like it never happened and as though we were best friends. So I agree with you in one respect, the mentality of the group DOES need to be considered and I suspect that those people are compensating for their low self worth by projecting it onto other people and reinforcing it by intimidating others into agreement, but you can't change them, it's up to them to change them, the best thing to do is work on yourself, and maybe they will be inspired to do the same.

APD and mental processing - z79 - Jun 11th 2007

I have always felt that APD had enhanced my intellectual abilities through the first third of my life.  Growing up, I found the world to be strange and I pondered on many questions to understand it.  I was extremely curious and philosophical in nature.  Although my IQ is in the average range, I found it only tolerable to communicate with brighter peers.  There deeper level of processing was appreciable, and made me feel less lonely.  The creative nature of my mind had helped me do very well for most of my years in college, and aided me in mastering my interests.  I finally lost this creative side when I was about 23.  This experience has made me wonder if the 'sensitive personality style' is an evolutionary advantage.  Perhaps sensitive types have evolved in response to the pressures of intellectually demanding academic systems, which have existed all throughout the world.            

oi lads, just sharing... - Max... - May 19th 2007

oi, im max, 13, i live in mexico and speak british english, yeh! well, i want to share ye that im just 13 and the phsychologist has like "detected" some problems I wasnt able to see, i guess...

anyway, I prefer loneliness instead of connecting with ppl, `cause i take the risk of being critisized, and that sucks, and i feel bad due to my lack of mates, i also have very low self-steem, i make drawings of my thinkings and I found out that they express something like hidden, like if the drawings of my thinkings are metaphores about what i like-dislike-hate-pain and everything else. im working on trying to get me known to myself, cause, honestly, im afraid of my own thinkings and thats why i cry...most of the nights. well, one thing im sure about is that i DONT like to be in the mainstream, i have different likes, but i want to be accepted in society, but no one seems to like me (well, i havent looked for people like me, cause im like sure there isnt, at least in my school)...

well, i guess thats it...see ya

Yes, I would like to correspond with you - Carole - May 15th 2007

my email is cbennett2812 at hotmail dot com. thanks for replying to my letter. I look forward to conversing with you

response to Carole - shelly - May 14th 2007

Carole, I would like to correspond about avoidant partners. I have an avoidant husband. He didn't used to be, but changed over the last 5 years. I suspect a combination of reawakened childhood trauma, and social anxiety, plus finding out he has adhd and non-verbal learning disorder.

Not sure how we exchange contact info.


2-through - - May 8th 2007
I have sought out many therapist-psycologist and have found one thing to be true:they are too consumed with being the next "eienstien" to care that they are messing up anotherers life! how dare we pretend that we know what makes one lose it, or another to be  joyous when things happen! we are always looking for ways to justify why someone feels the way they do,when things go the way they do;the sad thing is: we are really looking for ways to justify our own behaviour.

In search of others who live with spouses/partners with AvPD - Carole - Apr 16th 2007

I have been with my husband for 16 years and have experienced the emotional rollercoaster described by many.  My husband is a very intelligent Doctor, highly respected in his area.  He socially appears to function on a somewhat superficial level (he has no close professional friends or any other for that matter), yet when he comes home he shuts himself away in his office for hours and days, only emerging to feed, toilet or water himself.  This makes it so hard on me and my four young children as it's like, he's here (in the house) but he's not here. Raising a family of four children (only 4.5 yrs apart in age altogether) on my own (as that is how I feel) has been sooo hard.  I am expected to just keep surviving of which I will say, I now do a damned good job of without his help.

I am at the point of hitting the cross road in my life.  I have just realised in the last week that AvPD is what he has (following many years of confusion, frustration, bewilderment you name it, I've experienced)  His behaviour has even suggested that he has been visiting with other women for some form of contact. He is moving out soon and I will offer him all the support he may need. But, I have however said that we cannot be together again until he seeks help for this disorder. I need to survive for me and the children.  16 years of what I feel has been a loveless, intimateless not just physically but more so emotionally relationship has been hard. I know people with this disorder struggle so hard to survive.  I would like to put to those of you who have this diser and are in relationships that as hard as it is for you, please consider how hard it is for us too to try to make sense and cope with the effects this disorder has on the person we love so much.

Is there anyone out there who would like to correspond with me that is in the same situation.  I know of noone that loves and lives with someone with this disorder.

thanks so much

I would like an answer - Stabo - Mar 18th 2007
I wrote the previous comment, and it got truncated by accident. The point I was making is that it seems the psychological profession always looks for causes of sickness and pain within the individual and never outward toward the group that the individual participates in. When I wrote "VERY WELL" and my sentence was cut short, I was about to make some comment to the effect that it very well could be that it is some wrongness of the group, and some wickedness in the mentality and behavior of the group that is causing the stress and causing the difficulties for the sufferer. Why does the psychological community seem so willfully blind to the idea of pathologies having a group manifestation? Why does this professional community seem so blind to the hateful, self-serving, and uncaring behavior that even so called normal people will routinely engage in when they think they can safely apply their hateful behavior to a targeted individual? I have seen this happen to others, without rational reason, and it has happened to me as well. I suspect that the blindness has to do with the personal life experience of most psychological practitioners: If you've never been on the receiving end of group mistreatment firsthand, then you don't really, in your gut, believe the callousness of ordinary people and you unconsciously decide that the sufferer's complaints reveal their hypersensitivity and inability to cope, rather than showing you a universal tendency in humankind that you've been fortunate enough to never have to see. It bothers me because it amounts to a refusal to call a spade a spade. There was a Dr. Phil episode where a girl was being harrassed by classmates who were spreading rumors about her, following her around by vehicle(all the way to Canada), etc. And Dr. Phil basically told the targeted girl to 'hold her head high.' In effect, he was focusing his advice and comments on how to best use her internal resources to cope with the situation. He never once took sides. He never once commented on the fundamental wrongness of what the harrassers were doing. He didn't condemn immoral, hurtful behavior. In short, he didn't call a spade a spade. Same thing with the psychological community. Why don't they ever address the reality of malevolent group social/psychological processess? Why don't they condemn a certain kind of behavior? The health-disease axis applied soley to indviduals is insufficient. There is an element of right and wrong, an element of 'who is the instigating aggressor here', an element of justice, that needs to be addressed somehow, or the whole approach is superficial at best, and a counterproductive sham in the long run at worst. I would really like an answer to my rhetorical but purposeful question: how would any sort of therapy help Hester Prynne? It's not just Hester, but anyone who is wrongly targeted for pernicious, isolating treatment by the group. The Amish, for example, have a formal term for the deliberate social isolation of those who violate or appear to violate group norms. I forget the term. But how would such an individual so targeted be able to cope and overcome without some justice-based, rather than psychological based intervention? It seems this challenge is being ducked by the authors and anyone else involved with this site.

What of the group's role in all of this? - Stabo - Feb 18th 2007
This article describes all the details of shame, distinguishes it from guilt, and then shows the connection between shame and avoidant personality disorder, and it does all that very lucidly. But where it seems to be oversightful from the standpoint of covering a shame-related avoidant personality disorder problem comprehensively, from every angle, is the effect of the behavior of the sufferer's social group, ultimately up to an including society at large, on the suffer. And the complications such behavior would present for the effectiveness of any form of therapy. The behaviors of the sufferer do not occur in a vaccuum. According to the article, one element of shame is the expectancy that one will be universally condemned by society. Well, what if that expectation is in fact realistic? Take Hawthorne's Hester Prynne, which the article cites. In her case it is quite obvious that the expectation of being unaccepted by society is in complete accord with the truth. Hypothetically, how might cognitive behavioral therapy help Hester? I do not think she would have been accepted by her social group in any circumstance, whatever social skills, assertiveness techniques, etc. that she may have learned. In the real world, if someone has had negative experiences with the social groups in their geographic area, which VERY WELL

Me Too? - Linda - Feb 16th 2007

I am currently feeling very comfortable at home, alone.  I went out to lunch with a relative today and I did not feel very well, could not wait to get back home.  I am wondering if this social disorder manifests itself in this manner. I don't leave home often anymore, as I have few $$, reasons or friends anymore.  It seems like just yesterday I had it all.  I am only fifty years old. I had a great career and I was happily childless.  In fact, I have been lost really since I have not been able to work anymore.  I can't even do any volunteer work because I am not dependable. I never know how I am going to feel each day, accept BAD. Here is other backgroud stuff:

In the last 16 months I have lost three best friends to painful deaths, become estranged from my siblings, lost my home to hurricane Katrina, had two unsuccessful back surgeries and am considered disabled for life. Oh, and my husband divorced me while I was flat on my back and unable to work.  I am suffering tremendously from post menopause, I cannot sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time due to sweats. I can't take HRT due to recent cancer. 

I saw a movie last week called "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?", and if you have ever seen the movie you will know why I feel like I should be shot as well!  I feel just like the main character in the movie felt.  She was just having a bad few days, but I think I deserve what she got.

 No drugs ever stop this relentless back pain.

So, do I have this disorder,or a different one or just bad luck?  Oh, and my parents, who are in their late seventies, just broke up.  I definetly feel a lot of guilt about that, as they  were under a lot of stress due to hurricane wiping out their home and worrying about my problems.

And when I was only 18 years old,I was raped and almost murdered, I thought that was the worst thing that would ever happen. HA! Life says!  I have plenty more for YOU.

Well, I have searched for help in a lot of places, seen a few doctors that just want to shove pills down me and none of the pills help.  I think in the days of past I would have died or someone would have shot me, don't you think?  I feel like "GAME OVER, I LOST." 

On the brighter side, I havea lot of time to study. Science is interesting and I am pretty sure there is no god. So, that direction is out.

confused - - Feb 6th 2007

I feel completely alone sometimes. In the middle of a big city it hits me hard, surrounded by thousands of people but none of them cares a thing about me, none of them would ever really want me. Im 23 old and most of my life I have been an outsider, never good enough. Everyone else functions so normal but me, Im different. Im tall, fairly intelegent, and people consider me very good looking, people actually like me. But for some reason none of this really means much of anything. Its so superficial. I cant get really close to people. I avoid people who probably accept me. I feel inadequate. I was back in school recently but couldnt function socially. I felt like such an outcast. Those few, short lived times when I do feel a sense of belonging, its like Im living in a whole new world. I feel like like I can handle life. The rest of the time Im depressed, alone, scared, my mind is confused. It feels like everything is messed up and out of order.

Toxic shame/ Bradshaw's model - Tony Montana - Feb 1st 2007
Toxic shame is thought to be the cause of a lot of these behaviors popularized by self-help guru John Bradshaw. It is possible that some of you might be avioding intimate interactions with others because your affection needs are shame bound. This means that every time your brain attempts to feel the need for affection, which is natural, it is immediately blocked by a feeling of shame that has been internalized which means that it is associated with the feeling of your affection needs. Any time you attempt to feel a need for affection you immediately feel shame. Eventually the feeling of shame becomes so associated with your affection needs that it replaces your affection needs or blocks them in some great respect. This means that you have virtually no ability to have relationships and interactions with others. As a result you become socially inept and become isolated which merely furthers your personal belief that you are a flawed human being and the cycle continues. Pick up Bradshaw's "healing the shame that binds you". Shame comes from your primary care-givers ie., your parents. But there are many other sources of toxic shame such as early peer interaction and early romantic encounters with the opposite sex. Ok. There is good news and bad news. The good news is that just by recognizeing that this is your problem will give you some ability to deal with it and improve your situation and break the paterns of internalized toxic shame. By reading Bradshaw's work and seeking professional help one can overcome very difficult shame bound feelings. But there is also bad news. For some reason despite the long held belief by many that toxic shame is one of the most wide spread and pre-eminent mental illnesses in the world, it is very seldomly diagnosed and often overlooked. Also it is not that well recognized in the field. Secondly toxic shame is very difficult to beat. There are very little support groups for it because of the lack of popularization of the theories of its author. Therapy for it has fallen on hard times. Medication is for the most part ineffective. Toxic shame is a deep seeded feeling and can be mis-diagnosed for things like social anxiety and avoidance. But that doesnt mean that it is not possible. There is a lot more to it than I have said. It is a very complicated illness but recovery is certainly possible and at the very least recognizeing it is a major step toward improveing ones life. On the other hand, confronting your toxic shame might have a negative affect, such as in my case, in which it is driveing me completely insane.

To Gary from incerpt on Jan 20th - Diana - Jan 28th 2007
I agree that it is SO very difficult for those of us who truly love and want to help our lovers. I wrote about the emotional rollercoaster. It is absolute INSANITY to the person who loves the APD individual. It is a difficult thing to acept and resolve to move on without them. Believe me, I have been in a relationship for 4 years almost now. He won't call me for 2 to 3 weeks because he doesn't want to deal with an arguement that we had, doesn't answer his phone when I call, or worse hangs up on me. But, when I stop calling him, he has his sister in law call me to see if I will talk with him. I DON'T UNDERSTAND. I call him for a week and he won't talk to me but then I stop calling and he LOVES AND MISSES ME and is crying to me one the phone. SOMEONE PLEASE explain this to me????? This has happened more times than I can count and has led me to ask the question " What am I lacking in my own life that would Allow someone to treat me like that?"

Assertivness training - phil - Jan 27th 2007

I was 'sent' on an assertivness training course, run by an American psycologist, before I retired. The first statement she made was that nobody likes non-assertive people. I have never liked assertive people, but was not assertive enough to tell her! She was very intimidating!

Editor's Note: Sorry you had a bad experience. As is the case with any profession, therapists' personalities vary.  What is more, the fit between therapist and patient/client can often be a very important thing when finding a therapy relationship that works.  Some non-assertive folks might have responded well to this particular therapists rather brazen style, while others like yourself cringed.  I suspect you would not have had such a negative experience with a different, more sensitive therapist. They're out there; they just don't always happen to be the therapist you happen to get assigned.  If you have the resources, the best approach is often to interview several therapists until you find someone who fits you well; not too pushy, but also not too cushy is best.  


APD- Was My Wife to Be - Gary M - Jan 21st 2007
I've been engaged to a woman for 3 years. Our first year together was great, however, the last two years has been an immediate withdrawal from any intimacy. She does not want to be touched, refuses to discuss any intimacy. Finds excuses to not sleep together, yet constantly calls me outside the home to find out where I'm at. I've reacted strongly, said some things i shouldn't and resolved to leave for a week, because of frustration. She immediately "disengaged" us if you will based on "I left", yet she called me everyday to come home. At times she admits and promises that she has issues with intimacy from previous partners..however, thought I would be different. I've been to counselling to understand APD and BPD, which I investigated myself. 2 therapists confirmed the indications of APD. I was unable to convince my partner to support any therapy, yet I am expected to fulfill my obligations as a committed partner in the home on all other aspects. (Duties, financially etc..etc...NO INTIMACY). I love this woman very much, however, with an explosive demeanor, withdrawal from me and constant criticizm, i believe this will be over soon. As the old saying goes..."friends at a distance, some kind of strangers up close"...I appear to be living that nightmare.

response to sept. 25th posting - Jordan - Jan 10th 2007
The person who wrote the september 25th article has no idea what they are talking about. Obviously this person has no idea what avoidant personality disorder is especially since i myself live with it everyday. Ill be glad to back this reasoning up if anyone disagrees with me!!

emotional hostage to the man I love with APD - Diana - Jan 5th 2007
I have been on an emotional rollercoaster for over three years now. Involved with a man I "thought" was my love for life. I now believe that this disorder is what keeps us from any kind of happiness. He is unable to make any life decisions without the assistance of someone else, anytime we disagree about an issue he is unable to communicate his feelings to me and then just doesn't answer his phone or call me for weeks on end, I believe he may have other interpersonal relationships on "the back burner" in case it doesn't work out , and other VERY familiar behaviors that have been discussed in the hundred or so articles I have read in a desperate attempt to understand this!!! In the past I had blamed myself." Maybe if I hadn't argued with him" or "maybe if I would have just stayed home", all in an attempt to prove how much I cared and loved him. But, in the end, NO amount of love or attention was enough to endure the rollercoaster of the love-hate-love-hate behaviors that I was tortued with. As much as I loved him, he fought me tooth and nail every step of the way. To this day I don't know if he realizes how very much I loved him. But, the disorder prevailed as he was unable to believe in himself or me. I will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart for A. and wish the very best to a man who has been robbed by this horrific disorder. It is truly a shame :(

Boyfriend choses isolation - - Dec 26th 2006
I have a 2 years relationship with a man who once told me that he can't take criticism. At first, I thought it was in a reguler level, but I realized he feels it like real pain. He can't feel wronged, he is sensitive to any sort of judment, his responses are usually very emotional and full of anger. All the way throughout this time, we had arguments when he felt I was not respecting his point of view or would desagree with his position in a subject. He has specific rules for social interactions and when one doesn't follow he gets very frustrated. He can't hear a different opnion without feeling it against him and he gest very defensive. He often needs absolute quiet, often seeks isolation, doesn't show his feelings. He told me he never made friends in school, his only friend was the gym coach. The only long term relationship he had was 5 to 4 years before me. Now, he can't see it as a problem to solved, he decided we have the wrong dynamics and I don't know what to do to make him see he needs help. Is this sounding like the Avoidant Personality?

Loving a man with APD - The frustrated partner - Dec 22nd 2006
While my husband of 34 years is a competent surgeon, our empty relationship suggests that he has APD. He is not the only one who "suffers." Our two sons had no father to be involved in their lives. We have had a sexless marriage (certainly NOT my choice). When one person wrote: "Why be social?" I want to state that marriage carries an expectation of intimacy and connection. That connection implies friendship, nurturing, sexual enjoyment, and should not translate into a lonely prison sentence for the partner. I see this disorder as a problem that one also imposes onto another. I wish he would be properly diagnosed and receive the attention for the disorder that it requires, so that he could also begin to address the loneliness he has imposed upon those who have loved him and have waited in the wings to be loved.

- - Dec 10th 2006
There's no one I hate more than myself. I take critisism way harsh. I get real jealous. I spend hours daydreaming, about a different life. I can't point out the positive things in myself. I always feel like I'm the odd one out. I'm not good enough for anyone or anything. I'm not worth much. I care alot about being accepted, i need love, i crave it. I get nervous in social situations, there has been times when i've been completely quiet and been called "fucking dull" but i mean...I'm..pretty cute I guess, with my close friends, i'm a bucket of fun..yet I just can't kick this feeling utter hopelessness that always tearing away at me please help me.

maybe this is what is wrong with me... - elaine - Dec 7th 2006
when i was younger-i loved to isolate myself and read books. i was a "free" child- always "performing" for my family. It was in school that i learned to be ashamed to be me. I was the chubby, quiet, smart girl. My peers always picked on me and i was raised to be nice and to me nice people didn't respond a.k.a. take up for themselves when they were being picked on. I never stood up for myself-never learned that art-so i was classified as a nerd. Year after year i was picked on-my reputation followed me so in my senior year i dropped out of high school. I will be 30 next month and i'm still trying to learn that i need to take up for myself. I also know that i harbour a lot of rage and anger consisting of the things i should have said to others and peoples' whose a*# i should have kicked. Even now in the work place and in personal relationships i have an issue with boundaries. To top it all off- i've never had a boyfriend. In school i was often called ugly and i'm learning to shake that off because men of diffrent races flirt with me(women too) Yet no one wants to be in a relationship with me. i wish i were more outgoing. As the same time, people agitate me. i don't care about what they did with their family and who said what when. I have noticed i do enjoy the company of intelligent and/or witty people, outcasts, and underdogs. Sometimes i feel bored in my soul with life...not wanting to die just wanting to experience more life in my life. Who knows....

Confused- why should we be social? - - Dec 5th 2006
APD sounds alot like me except I can function very well at work. In fact it is the only place were I know I will be ok, I work hard, keep my head down and yet have alot of responsibility. My so called problem (so people tell me) is at the personal social level, I hate being touched, (have been married 21 years) hugged, sex is non existant, my choice, (my husband asked me for a divorce two nights ago) I do not go out socially, no movies, restaurants dinner etc, I will not allow people to my home, I have no contact with family, I do not have friends. I cannot understand why people must behave the way society says they should, I maybe on my own but that is my choice. By the way my soon to be ex husband says I am a complete nut case and should be committed...maybe I should do that, at least people would leave me alone.

... - - Dec 5th 2006
It's crippling me.

20 years of shyness is destroying me... - avoidingeverything - Nov 9th 2006
So, would this include driving to the mall or a store and never getting out of your car, just parked in the parking place....after looking in the mirror feeling discusted and suddenly deeply depressed, and not wanting to go inside to be around anyone? I am 31, and still have problems with social interaction. I really have actually gotten dressed up to do something, then when I arrive I never get out of the car and I leave to go back home. I hate it! What is this caused by?

this is very helpful, thank you - frightened and angry queer person of color - Oct 26th 2006
I understand this page is not intended to substitute for one-on-one professional medical advice, but I think one step in trying to deal with what and who I am and being ok with that and being able to function in society is by searching and searching for answers (how to "get over" yourself?) Some of the characteristics in the explanation, and also in everyone's comments I can recognize in myself (taking criticism badly, taking things personally in a social interaction, being clumsy with scripted social interactions, avoiding parties). And I do do some rationalizing like, ok, it's important to give and take criticism (or what i think is criticism) in a constructive way, but if someone is being unfairly critical or misunderstanding me, i have the right and the responsibility to speak out. if i'm upset or angry, there has to be a space for that, i have to allow myself to be upset or angry, or to not be, and work through it, and let people know how i feel. i tend to give up on people a bit too easily, and i'm really hard on myself too. for example, if someone says something i don't like, or i think they are unpleasant to me on one single occasion, that's enough for me to consciously avoid them, instead of just confronting it on the spot and getting a resolution. i mean, maybe they are having a bad day, or they are tired or ill, or something's wrong, or i'm just reading them wrong, huh? okay, most times i think they don't like me and are making a conscious attempt to degrade or control me, but later i think about it some more and snap out of it. in the workplace, i try to be open and cooperative to everyone's needs. maybe i am a little too cooperative and accommodating, and then i'll beat myself up about that, thinking work is about a "command your respect or get walked on" game, and i'm just not aggressive or assertive enough (again drawing a boundary between myself and everybody else) and it's not like that. i mean, some work spaces and social places are like that, but many others aren't. at least i trust and believe in that...i have to. i think a lot of the avoidance personality and social avoidance comes from patterns in my past, where i wasn't really allowed to articulate how i felt, how i trusted people and ended up getting hurt (badly sometimes). because i am a biracial bisexual person my ethnicity and sexuality is constantly open to people's comments, approval and disapproval (that i'm not asian enough, or i've got heterosexual privilege, or i'm queer, or i'm asian, or i'm an imposter). it's the "what are you?" question, and constantly getting denied membership into a group. so maybe i don't want to be part of such groups anymore. i struggle against thinking that i'm somehow righteous or superior or that i've got it "all figured out" because i isolate myself. that moment of righteousness, i tell myself, is the moment i don't know the first thing about society, culture, race, sexuality, gender, and all the discriminations. in actuality, there is no real "group," just a collection of social relations. in the workplace or other institutions, there are power differentials running like currents through these social relations, so it really does matter then if the higher-status person thinks you're antisocial, stupid, a loser, or an awesome "team player" with "take-charge leadership skills." in any case i think it's most important to cultivate one's intuition. i have to know and recognize where and when and whether to draw lines. and sometimes, even if everyone else in a situation is thinking about something one way, i have to follow what intuition tells me and stand up for what i believe in. so, in my conclusion, i understand how it becomes necessary to "fake it till you make it" in terms of social skills and the workplace, the real consequences of non-normative social behavior, and at the same time i'll do my best to survive and to create and leave a space for anyone else who's felt and gone through something like this. best wishes to everyone, Ani the Avoider

thank you - kacee - Oct 26th 2006
i am only a sophomore in high school but i'm pretty sure i have this disorder. i'm really shy when it comes to meeting new people and i avoid situations where i have to interact with people, so school is pretty difficult for me. i absolutely hate going. for one reason i have a really low self-esteem, i get really nervous when i have to speak out in front of the class or even walk in front of them for that matter. i don't like going out with my friends anymore i would rather sit at home by myself. i am also extremely sensitive to rejection and i wont let things go. if someone said something that hurt me in any way it will just stay in my head and repeat for quite a while. my mom has no idea how i feel but she has said something with me has changed. so obviously it is noticeable to see a difference in my behavior to how i use to act a few months ago. this has been bothering me for quite a while and i wasn't exactally sure what was wrong with me or if there was even a name for it so thank you.

Recovery - Patrick - Oct 26th 2006
In 1994 I started seeing a therapist after years of depression, &. Alcohol abuse - I was brought up in orphanages in England & Australia. He put me on anti – depressants (they saved my life) because of serotonin depletion caused by the trauma from my childhood. He helped me process my feelings (He had processed his own history); I did years of group therapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). All I knew from my childhood was terror, pain, shame and guilt & I was able to feel my fear, pain, & get validated and supported by other people in my group. What I had learned, I had a conscious fear of abandonment & an unconscious fear of intimacy (love addict). About 2 years ago, I dropped into a "black hole" and had to be hospitalized.... I had 4 months of absolute terror; I thought I was in hell. One day I asked God (Jesus Christ) to have mercy on me & forgive me for my sins. Slowly my fear and guilt dissipated & today, I am just, Patrick! (Happy, Joyous & Free.) The terror I experienced (in Hospital), was what it was like for me as a child. I had to go back to the “chamber of horrors: (my childhood) and recover "Little Patrick!"

Afraid, lonely, avoiding contact with others - Joan - Oct 1st 2006
I have a terrible time getting out of my home. After working at a part-time job of 3 hours and maybe doing some errands, I come home and absolutely refuse to consider going out again. I hear of great places I would like to go to and are invited places but I won't go anywhere alone. In the past I have familiar people looking at me but avoid contact which makes me feel shameful, timid, and unable to enjoy myself. I feel so isolated and alone. I know it would help me and my therapist constantly gets me to try, but that step out the door never occurs.I am divorced and have Treatment Resistent Depression for almost 15 years. I can never see myself getting off disability. The thought terrifies me. I fear responsiblity and making a mistake because of the shame I will feel. Critisism by others and especially by myself disables me to perform the best I can. I have no problem socializing with the people I work with it is just my difficulty in avoiding other social environments.

Follow us on Twitter!

Find us on Facebook!


Marriage Counseling


This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

Powered by CenterSite.Net