Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) And Addiction

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 19, 2021

The occurrence of addiction and Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) is common. When these conditions occur together, they require specialized treatment.

Dual Diagnosis Avoidant Personality Disorder And Addiction

Avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) is a common disorder that is associated with significant social distress, impairment, and disability.

The disorder is characterized by long-term behaviors of social anxiety, fear of rejection, feelings of isolation and inadequacy.

The occurrence of AVPD and substance abuse disorder is common. Significant personal distress and negative emotions caused by the disorder may lead an individual to abuse drugs and alcohol.

When avoidant personality disorder and substance occur together they require specialized dual diagnosis treatment.

Learn more about co-occurring personality disorders and addiction

What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Avoidant Personality Disorder is a condition characterized by feelings of inadequacy, social inhibition, and hypersensitivity to criticism and rejection.

This condition causes extreme distress and problems in affected individuals.

People who have this condition will exhibit a long-term pattern of social avoidance, fear of speaking up for themselves, discomfort in social situations, and fears surrounding personal relationships.

Diagnosing AVPD

For the condition to be diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, the majority of the following symptoms must be present:

  • avoidance of social interaction due to extreme fears of rejection
  • aversion to interacting with others due to fear of rejection, interactions based on the guarantee of positive response
  • reluctance to establish intimate relationships due to fear of rejection, shame, or inadequacy
  • hypersensitivity to social situations that results in hyper-focused and hyper-vigilant behavior
  • long-term feelings of inadequacy
  • low self-esteem and self-worth
  • disruption of personal relationships

People diagnosed with Avoidant Personality Disorder may feel comfortable and relaxed when they are not exposed to social situations that present the risk of experiencing rejection.

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People with AVPD often want to establish relationships, however, symptoms of the disorder dissuade them from pursuing necessary interaction.

How Common Is Co-Occurring Avoidant Personality Disorder And Addiction?

Avoidant personality disorder and addiction commonly occur together. At least 2.5 million Americans suffer from AVD. The disorder affects both genders equally.

Avoidant personality disorder typically develops in adolescence before the occurrence of substance abuse disorder.

People with the condition may abuse drugs and alcohol to reduce negative feelings and fears of rejection and inadequacy.

Why Do People With AVPD Turn To Drugs And Alcohol?

Avoidant personality disorder often disrupts an individual’s work and professional life.

The condition often results in disrupted relationships, lack of motivation, or complete avoidance of social interaction.

People with long-term fears surrounding establishing relationships and thriving in social environments may seek drugs and alcohol to reduce symptoms of their disorder.

Unfortunately, drug and alcohol abuse will lead to adverse effects and the exacerbation of symptoms.

A person may turn to substance abuse to:

  • reduce fears of inadequacy and rejection
  • reduce anxiety
  • self-medicate depression
  • numb negative emotions

Chronic abuse of drugs and alcohol often leads to the development of substance abuse disorder and addiction.

When AVPD and substance abuse occurs together, it increases an individual’s risk of health and personal damages, as well as experiencing adverse side effects.

Diagnosing Co-Occurring Avoidant Personality Disorder And Addiction

To be diagnosed with AVPD, a person must meet at least two of the 11 criteria of the disorder. Further, a person must meet specific criteria to be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder.

If a person is seeking substance abuse treatment and has not yet been diagnosed with AVPD, it may be necessary to complete detox and withdrawal before being diagnosed with the condition.

Diagnosing these disorders is based on:

  • an individual’s medical history
  • evaluation of mental health
  • evaluation of the family medical history
  • other personal and psychological factors

Treatment For Co-Occurring AVPD And Substance Abuse

Treatment for substance abuse and avoidant personality disorder often involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy in a group setting.

Further, depending on the severity of addiction and the substance of abuse, substance abuse treatment may involve integrated therapies to treat both disorders.

Social exposure, medication, detoxification, and dual diagnosis treatment that implements an integrated approach to treat underlying causes of both disorders is crucial for recovery.

Dual diagnosis treatment may involve:

  • medically-supervised detox
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • psychodynamic therapy
  • group therapy
  • family therapy
  • exposure therapy
  • social skills training
  • medication

A combination of treatments may be used to achieve better outcomes when treating the co-occurring disorders of substance abuse and AVPD.

Getting Treatment For Avoidant Personality Disorder And Addiction

At least 38 percent of Americans suffer from substance abuse disorder and a co-occurring mental disorder.

While it may be challenging for a person to seek dual diagnosis treatment for these disorders, it is necessary to achieve recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with AVPD and addiction, help is available.

Find dual diagnosis treatment at:

  • inpatient and outpatient treatment centers
  • residential rehab centers
  • individual treatment providers

If you or someone you love wants to learn more about co-occurring disorders or to find a dual diagnosis treatment program for AVPD and addiction, please call our helpline today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 19, 2021
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