Untreated mental health disorders can have a devastating impact on just about every part of a person’s life. But the effects of mental illnesses can vary widely from one person to the next. Some people, such as those who have high functioning avoidant personality disorder, are able to manage (or mask) their symptoms and achieve what appear to be successful lives. However, the outward appearance of success can camouflage the fact that these individuals are in crisis and can benefit greatly from effective professional treatment.
What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder?
Avoidant personality disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by inhibited social behaviors, feelings of inadequacy, and a heightened sensitivity to being evaluated negatively.
In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), avoidant personality disorder is classified as a Cluster C personality disorder, along with dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. The DSM-5 notes that people who have these three disorders often exhibit signs of anxiety or fearfulness.
To meet the criteria for a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder as defined by the DSM-5, people must display at least four of the following symptoms in a variety of contexts:
- Avoiding work-related activities that would require them to interact with others because of a fear of being criticized or rejected
- Being unwilling to associate with other people unless they are virtually certain that they will be accepted and liked
- Holding themselves back in the context of romantic relationships due to fear of being ridiculed or shamed
- Becoming preoccupied with the likelihood that they may be criticized or rejected when they are in social situations
- Struggling with behavioral inhibitions when forming new friendships because they feel they are inadequate
- Viewing themselves as inept, inferior, or otherwise unappealing
- Refusing to take risks or participate in new activities due to fear of embarrassment
The symptoms of avoidance personality disorder usually begin to become evident during early adulthood. According to a March 2018 article in the journal Psychology Research and Behavioral Management, experts estimate that 1.5%-2.5% of people will develop avoidant personality disorder.
What Are the Signs of High Functioning Avoidant Personality Disorder?
Given the extreme distress that people with avoidant personality disorder may experience when they need to interact with others, it can be difficult to understand how someone who has this disorder can achieve what most people would describe as a successful life. But many people who have this disorder do experience personal and professional successes.
Here are some signs that may indicate a person has high functioning avoidant personality disorder:
- They strongly prefer to take on solo projects or tasks.
- They may seek out positions where they will be shielded from criticism or blame.
- They have established a lifestyle that emphasizes certainty and security.
- They often appear to be shy, withdrawn, reserved, or uptight in social situations.
- They are extremely self-critical, finding flaws in their work even when they have been praised or rewarded for doing a great job.
- Though they are hard on themselves, they do not react well to negative comments from others.
- They may cut off contact with people who have criticized them or made gestures that they perceived to be of a mocking nature.
- They are uncomfortable talking about themselves and may go to great lengths to deflect attention toward others.
- Once they have a job, they are unlikely to push for a promotion or seek employment elsewhere.
- They have a small group of people they trust, and they rarely venture outside this social circle.
How is High Functioning Avoidant Personality Disorder Treated?
Treatment for high functioning avoidant personality disorder may occur at the residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient levels. Some people may only receive care at one of these levels, while others may spend time in two or all three programs.
Psychotherapy is the primary method of treatment for high functioning avoidant personality disorder. Depending on a person’s history, the nature of the symptoms they have been experiencing, and if they have any co-occurring mental health disorders, certain prescription medications may also be incorporated into their treatment.
People who enter a treatment program for high functioning avoidant personality disorder may benefit from therapies such as the following:
- Psychiatric services
- Individual and group therapy
- Family therapy
- Expressive arts therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Yoga, meditation, and other holistic services
If a person’s struggles with high functioning avoidant personality disorder are accompanied by anxiety, depression, trauma, or other co-occurring concerns, their care may also include elements such as the following:
- Red light therapy
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
- Spravato treatment
- Neurofeedback therapy
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
- Biosound therapy
- Genetic testing
Begin Mental Health Treatment in Nashville, TN
If you have been living with high functioning avoidant personality disorder, please know that help is available and treatment works. With proper professional care, you can learn to manage your symptoms and experience improved quality of life. At Arbor Wellness Center, you can receive personalized services and comprehensive support from a team of skilled professionals who truly care about you. The day you arrive at our treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee can be the day you begin your journey toward a much healthier and more hopeful future. Give us a call or visit our admissions page today to learn more.