Living with Avoidant Personality Disorder: Five Tips to Make the Day Bearable
Avoidant Personality Disorder Symptoms
Avoidant Personality Disorder is fairly common in the United States, but because of its very nature often goes undeclared and untreated. Sufferers of the disorder have great difficulty making emotional connections with other people, including such simple actions as making eye contact. More intense emotional upheaval, such as an argument with a loved one, can lead to a total shutdown on the part of the sufferer, making long-lasting relationships extremely stressful and challenging. Avoidant Personality Disorder manifests in almost every aspect of a person's life, and almost always for the worse. It affects your work, home, social life, and private thoughts. The intense self-scrutiny and risk aversion make this one of the hardest personality disorders to live with, and it's no surprise that most people with the disorder also suffer from depression.
Seeking Treatment For Avoidant Personality Disorder
If you feel you have Avoidant Personality Disorder, the best thing you can do is seek the opinion and help of a therapist. Of course, that's easier said than done when the disorder is defined by an extreme aversion to emotional intimacy. If you can't share your feelings with your own loved ones, how could you with a complete stranger?
Despite all of these valid concerns, I would recommend that anyone suffering from Avoidant Personality Disorder at least try therapy. Write down your problems and bring them with you to help you bring them up, and remember, a psychologist is a confidante. Anything you say in there is private and will not be found out by the people in your life.
However, therapy isn't for everyone. Whether you feel your symptoms are manageable, or simply haven't worked up the courage to seek professional help, there are still ways to manage your own life and make things more tolerable. Below are the top five things I have found that make my everyday life better.
Keep a Blog
This one has helped me, personally, the most. Blogs can be as personal or as private as you want, and you can easily set one up for free. To my mind, a blog is actually more secure than a physical journal, as the people likely to come across a blog probably won't know you. Talk about your day, what bothered you, and what you did well. You will feel better having gotten it off your chest, I promise.
Keep a Pet
Only do this if you're sure you can handle caring for an animal, but pets make wonderful companions for Avoidants. Having a creature that's always happy to see you and doesn't judge you around can be a great comfort for those suffering from loneliness and insecurity. Cats and dogs are the most common choices, but feel free to branch out. Parrots are noisy, but they're also very long-lived and highly intelligent. Or, alternatively, even a simple goldfish has been shown to have positive effects on its owner's mental (and physical) health.
Find Time to Be Alone
Don't expect too much from yourself. No matter how good you're feeling, or how apathetic, take time to just relax, alone, and recharge your batteries. Note that this implies you actually get out and interact with people. I know it can seem daunting some days, but do also work at leading a productive life. Even if you only see people at work, put in an effort to say hello to at least one acquaintance, unprompted, every day. The key is to find the perfect balance between staying comfortable and motivated.
Work Around Your Limitations
Having a personality disorder is a very real thing for those who experience it. You may recognize a fear as irrational, but that doesn't make it any less of a fear. Still, society demands some basic human interaction, so a big part of living a decent life is to overcome, or skirt around, those fears. Let's take a common problem many Avoidants have: making eye contact. If you're outdoors, and it isn't the dead of winter, sunglasses can be a good way of getting around this. Learn some techniques to calm anxiety for when you have a stressful situation come up.
Basically, arm yourself with knowledge. Break down the greatest problems you have, and think about why they happen, and how you can minimize them.
This one is very important! Take some time every day to go over what was good about that day, and what is good about yourself. This can be very difficult when you're depressed, but it is essential to getting yourself out of that trench. Accept that you are who you are. Accept that, no matter what, you have value as a human being. You might feel dumb, but write out a list of what's good about you, and where you want to be in a year (write it out in the present tense, as though you're already there.) Say it, out loud, to yourself, every day. I can guarantee you'll feel better about yourself.
Avoidant Personality Disorder is one of the most anguishing disorders out there. Sufferers are not emotionally stunted, they feel despair and loneliness, but they're unable to reach out and ask for help. I really do urge anyone showing symptoms to seek help; the possible trauma of opening up in therapy could never be more than a lifetime of isolation, could it? Still, in the meantime, I hope these tips help out my fellow Avoidants in their daily lives. I've included some recommended reading that has really helped me to the right.
Please feel free to leave any comments offering your own tips and experiences.