Social Issues with Avoidant Personality Disorder

Reader’s Question

Hi, I am 18, and I have been diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder. I am also battling depression and am currently on an antidepressant. The biggest thing I suffer with is the fact that I have not been in any intimate relationships, and truly desire them. I hate the way I feel in social situations, mainly a tense paralyzing feeling, and for this reason I avoid socializing at great lengths. I want to have a group of friends and a girlfriend, but I just can’t seem to change my view of people, relationships, and life. Please help!

Psychologist’s Reply

Depression and Avoidant Personality Disorder is a tough combination. Your best option will be to use several treatment strategies. Antidepressant medications are very helpful with depression but do not suddenly produce social skills. Counseling is also helpful with depression but just as importantly, with the low self-confidence and low self-esteem that prevents socialization. Lastly, experiencing social interaction in a therapeutic environment helps develop the social skills you need to achieve your goals of an intimate or even friend relationship. Group therapy and programs that teach social skills are helpful in this area. You can’t fly a plane by just reading about it. You need to first learn the skills, then fly with a pilot, then fly as a co-pilot, then fly with a co-pilot, then fly alone. It’s a gradual process.

Keep in mind that everyone goes through these same steps. Your Avoidant Personality means you’ll be going through these common steps when older than your peers. Your peers went though these socially clumsy stages during their teen years. People who learn to drive at 30 years old drive their automobiles on vacation at 31 — just like their friends. They just learned to drive later. Become involved in counseling and social treatment and learn the skills you need to achieve your personal goals.

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