I am a 23-year-old college graduate. I recently heard about Avoidant Personality Disorder and after doing some research, I am surprised that so many of the characteristics remind me of myself. I am not usually one to assume that I have a particular illness simply because I have some of the symptoms, but I am very curious about this.
I have always been quiet, introverted, and much more comfortable by myself than in a group. I am awkward and uncomfortable in most social situations. For my first 2 years at college, I stayed in my dorm room as much as possible; it was comfortable, familiar, safe. I left for classes and meals but went straight back to the room. If I had two places to go, I went one place, came back to the room, and then went to the other. The more I had to do, the more trips back and forth I would make. It took me 4 months to work up the courage to go to the cafeteria (an unfamiliar environment with way too many people), sit down, and eat my lunch.
I stay away from jobs that involve talking on the phone or dealing with the public or large numbers of coworkers. I stay away from all situations that involve a group of people that I don't know well. I have a few friends but (I've been told) poor social skills and the number of friends I have is dwindling. I am content to be by myself and although I sometimes get lonely, I would rather be lonely than be around people that I don't like/trust/aren't comfortable with. I have always wondered why I am this way when it seems like most of the population is so much more outgoing than I am.
I have a boyfriend, but there is quite a bit of an age difference and because of that I don't expect the relationship to last despite our mutual love for each other. At this point it is also a long distance relationship. I am uncomfortable with strong emotions and keep them to myself at all costs. I am also a self-injurer but I think that is a completely different subject.
How does a therapist determine whether a patient is just very quiet and introverted or if they have Avoidant Personality Disorder?
Sending this email question is the first step in beginning to better understand your actions and feelings. You may wish to understand your desire to be alone by attempting to look a level deeper than the symptoms. As I understand you, your symptoms are that you are uncomfortable in most social situations, you avoid unfamiliar people and environments, and you would rather be alone than with people you don't trust. Answering some questions as honestly as you can may help you understand the underlying basis for your feelings.
Do you have a desire to change your behaviors or feelings? If so, exactly what behaviors and feelings would you like to have?
When you say that you are uncomfortable in social situations, what exactly do you mean by uncomfortable? (Try to define your feelings exactly. Are you scared, sad, angry, worried that you will not be accepted? )
You said that your dorm room was safe for you. In what ways did you feel different inside your dorm room, versus outside of it? Why do you think you felt this way?
You say that the number of friends you have is dwindling. Exactly why do you think this is so? What behaviors are you exhibiting or are your friends exhibiting that contribute to this?
You stated that you and your boyfriend love each other, yet you don't expect the relationship to last. Be more specific about your feelings for your boyfriend and your thoughts about the future of the relationship.
Describe what you mean when you say that you are a self-injurer? What are the reasons behind these thoughts or actions?
Diagnoses can often be useful in that they may suggest possible underlying causes and/or treatments for some disorders. In addition, diagnoses can help people to feel that they are not alone with their feelings. Other times, diagnoses can serve as a label for a person or as an excuse for undesirable actions. Be honest with yourself about why you are seeking a diagnosis. If your reason is a positive one, seek the help from a licensed professional who can give you the best treatment and answer.
I am not a Psychologist and therefore am not qualified to tell you how a therapist determines if a patient has Avoidant Personality Disorder. If you would like to have a definitive diagnosis, I would recommend that you see a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist in your area. You can locate one by looking in your yellow pages. I have also listed an additional Internet resource that may be of help to you if you are not yet ready to speak to someone in person.
Again, I would like to congratulate you on having the courage to ask questions and the desire to better understand yourself. You sound like an intelligent person who takes herself and her health seriously.
I wish you the best!
Women Improving Self Harmony...one woman at a time.