ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Health»
  • Mental Health»
  • Personality Disorders

Avoidant Personality Disorder vs Social Anxiety Disorder

Updated on December 22, 2011

There are thousands, if not millions, of Americans suffering from Avoidant Personality Disorder or Social Anxiety Disorder. These two distinct but similar disorders bear many of the same traits, while still differing enough to fall under separate titles. Although the symptoms are more important than any label, it is often comforting for those who suffer from these disorders to find like-minded communities online. Both are characterized by intense anxiety around other people, but upon closer inspection the deeper differences come forth. This article will attempt to explain the disorders and the effects they have on everyday life, and help those seeking information determine if they are suffering from either.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder is most markedly characterized by an intense fear of social performance. This can manifest itself during public speaking, or even something so simple as paying the pizza delivery guy. Social Phobics agonize over upcoming social events, and fear making a mistake in public or being exposed to criticism. Whether or not the individual recognizes these fears as irrational will not change their occurring. Social Phobics plan ahead and fret over potential social situations, and after the fact will pick their performance apart. This leads to low self-esteem and a tendency to avoid places or events where the Phobic feels uncomfortable.

Social Anxiety Disorder is commonly estimated to afflict anywhere from 3 - 10 % of the population of the United States.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder is, in some ways, the most crippling of personality disorders. Sufferers rarely seek help for their problems, and often choose to live in near total isolation. Where Social Anxiety Disorder is a specific phobia involving social situations, Avoidant Personality Disorder is more a fear of emotional intimacy and rejection. Sufferers obsess over past mistakes, have extremely low self-esteem, and will often shut down completely when confronted. The Avoidant wishes desperately for affection, but can't reach for it, or reciprocate it when given. Avoidants want to be liked, but will typically act aloof, or even rudely, to avoid appearing vulnerable. Typically, Avoidant Personality Disorder involves greater social impairment and lifestyle consequences than Social Anxiety Disorder.

Side By Side

Avoidant Personality Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder
Primary Symptom
Avoidance of intimacy for fear of rejection
Avoidance of social interactions for fear of judgement
Approx. 1% of the population
3 - 10 % of the population
Typical Personality Type
Generally highly introverted
Extroverts more common than in AvPD
Interpersonal Relationships
Characterized by a lack of intimacy, fear of emotional investment, and few friends
Can be better or comparable to AvPD. Less difficulty with close relationships
Antidepressants and psychotherapy
Beta-blockers, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant medications. Therapy is the most common form of treatment.
Comorbid Disorders
High rates of depression. Other personality disorders are common.
High rates of depression and panic disorders.

Of course, both of these disorders are far too complex to fit into any table or generalized description, but I have tried to condense them as much as possible. If you feel that you have one of these disorders, or any other, I highly recommend that you seek help from a therapist. The disorders can manifest in many ways, with many different symptoms, and only a trained professional can diagnose you with real accuracy. Both Avoidant Personality Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder are treatable. There is no need to continue living a life of self-imposed seclusion, and once you make the initial leap of courage, you will find speaking to a therapist may be a wonderful outlet for you.

If you have similar symptoms but neither of these sound quite right, I also recommend looking into Schizoid Personality Disorder.

Further Reading:

Social Phobia

Avoidant Personality Disorder

A Great Forum For Those Seeking More Personal Accounts


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • xethonxq profile image

      xethonxq 5 years ago

      Very nice review of both disorders. I like how you laid them out side by side to make the comparisons much easier to grasp. Nice hub gofygure!

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      very interesting article. you boiled them down to their essence well. i would suggest that since both diagnoses lead to depression that cognitive behavioral therapy would be the best choice of psychotherapy being shown to be more effective than other forms (many of which are no more effective than a placebo). Voted you up!

    • profile image

      tvfor200 4 years ago

      Interesting to see a side by side comparison. Both disorders seem to have a similar qualities with the exception of Typical Personality Type. Good hub.

    Click to Rate This Article