Avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) treatments typically include cognitive behavioral therapy, social skills training, and occasionally medication. Those with AVPD limit their interactions with others due to deep-rooted fears of being criticized or rejected, which can greatly impact their life.Fortunately, treatment for avoidant personality disorder can help a person learn ways to manage their symptoms.
What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder?
People with avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) struggle with social interactions, especially in new situations or when they’re unsure if the other person likes them. They struggle with deep feelings of shame, inadequacy, and low self-esteem.1,2,3 Despite wanting to form relationships, personal insecurities and fears of rejection can limit their ability to develop healthy, close relationships with others.4,6 This can be a source of major distress and can also keep those with AVPD from being able to function at work or in academic settings.6
Therapy for Avoidant Personality Disorder
Therapy for avoidant personality disorder is considered the frontline and most effective treatment approach. If you or a loved one suspect you have avoidant personality disorder, the best first step is to schedule an appointment with a mental health counselor, therapist, or psychologist.
Here are several common types of therapy used to treat AVPD:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Challenges and reframed thoughts lead to different behaviors. Identifying automatic thoughts and understanding why that is happening can lead to different, healthier thoughts and actions.
- Schema therapy: Helps you play out different scenarios to challenge your original thought patterns. Schema therapy helps you get more attuned to your own feelings and learn how your actions are impacted by your emotions.
- Psychodynamic therapy: Dives deep into why the behavior is happening and where it comes from to learn about how to challenge it. It involves a lot of self discovery and learning about how your past may have impacted you.
- Metacognitive interpersonal therapy: Focuses on challenging cognitive beliefs and changing cognitive distortions. It goes a step deeper than CBT and focuses on the thought behind the thought.
- Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT): A blended approach of CBT and psychodynamic therapy that helps people to have a solid identity and sense of self. It is empowering for those who need it and can be effective for those with personality disorders.
- Radically Open DBT (RO DBT): Helps people learn socioemotional cues that can be missed. Once those are learned, it helps people learn how to consider these emotions and cues and find the connection.
- Social Skills Training: Helps people learn how to develop social skills through behavioral therapy modalities.
Medication For Avoidant Personality Disorder
There are currently no FDA-approved avoidant personality disorder medications, as ADVP is not typically treated with medication unless there is another underlying condition.
No strong evidence suggests medication is an effective stand-alone treatment for avoidant personality disorder, but it can be helpful if one also experiences mood and anxiety disorders. These conditions often respond well to a combination of therapy and medication.2,3,4
Medications for avoidant personality disorder may include:
- Antidepressants like SSRIs and SNRIs
- Anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines
- Mood stabilizers
Why AVPD Treatment Is Important
AVPD treatment is important and can help people learn how to live with a better quality of life. AVPD treatment is effective and can help change lives and the lives of families and friends who love someone with AVPD. Treatment is important—without it, it can lead someone into deep isolation which can be dangerous.
How to Cope With Avoidant Personality Disorder
Learning how to cope with AVPD is important as there is no cure to this disorder, but there are lifestyle changes and things you can modify in your day-to-day life to accommodate healing.
In addition to formal treatment, here are other ways to cope with avoidant personality disorder:
- Educate yourself about AVPD: Learning about AVPD is a good way to feel empowered and give you insight into areas of your life you may not have considered as contributing factors.
- Join a support group: Support groups are a great way to gain social support as well as have a community where you can practice new skills and feel validated.
- Lean on your supportive loved ones: Having a support system is key when you are healing relational skills and working to be a more sociable and present person.
- Try journaling your thoughts and emotions: Journaling is a great way to get your emotions out and process them. It can also help you keep a record of your moods and triggers.
- Make time to engage in hobbies: Having engaging and fun hobbies is a good way to naturally improve your mood and help you stay regulated.
- Take small steps: Taking one step at a time is key when you are working on changing your day to day routines to support your healing.
- Practice stress management: Stress management is key and working to lower your stress with meditation and other grounding techniques can be important in your healing journey.
- Focus on your mind-body connection: Learn how your body is impacted and where in your body you are storing your emotions.
- Be patient with yourself: Having self compassion and grace is important. Healing is a journey.
Often, therapy for avoidant personality disorder (sometimes combined with medication) is the key to overcoming underlying shame, insecurities, and fears of rejection that lead to social isolation. Seeking help from an avoidant personality disorder therapist can be an important first step towards beginning to live a fuller, happier, and more connected life.
For Further Reading
Learn more about avoidant personality disorder and find information, resources, and support for APVD and related disorders at the following sites: