3 signs you're dating someone with avoidant personality disorder, according to a mental health counselor

·3 min read
Sad person in their bedroom.
People with avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) have a pervasive negative self-image, so they avoid emotional closeness.Ol'ga Efimova/Getty Images
  • 2.4% of Americans have avoidant personality disorder, where they have extreme fear of emotional closeness and pervasive negative self-image.

  • People with avoidant personality disorder can have successful romantic relationships.

  • They may ask for reassurance often, stay away from social events, and keep their inner circle small.

An estimated 2.4% of Americans live with avoidant personality disorder (AVPD), which is characterized by extreme low self-esteem and a fear of emotional closeness.

"Avoidant" has become a buzzword in recent years as attachment styles, or the way someone engages in a relationship with another person, have become popularized through social media.

Everyone exhibits attachment styles in relationships (anxious if they fear abandonment; avoidant if they fear closeness). People with avoidant personality disorder experience that fear at a pervasive level, Anthony Smith, a mental health counselor with 17 years of experience, told Insider.

Typically, personality disorders stem from a child's upbringing and their early-in-life relationships, and genes can also play a factor, Smith said. If a child grew up with a caregiver who consistently ignored, criticized, or mocked them, they may have developed AVPD as a result, according to PsychCentral.

People with AVPD can have successful relationships, romantic included, according to Smith. At the same time, they may struggle with poor self-image and seek reassurance from a partner more than someone without the personality disorder.

They have a small social circle and avoid outings

If your partner only seems to have one close friend and stays away from bars, work events, and other social outings, it could mean they have AVPD, according to Smith.

Since people with AVPD believe they're not good enough and others will eventually find out how disappointing they are, they often adjust their behaviors to prevent situations where they feel too emotionally close and therefore unsafe.

This includes staying away from new connections with people they're unsure they can trust, said Smith.

"They have an inordinate amount neuroses about being presented in any way that they could be scrutinized or, in their mind, display their ineptness," he said.

They only date people they meet through mutual friends

Though people with AVPD fear intimacy, they can still have successful relationships with those they trust.

Since that's usually a select few people with whom they've built long-term connections, they often meet romantic partners through shared friends or family connections, according to Smith.

He said that for some people with AVPD, a mutual connection can help them view someone as less threatening, and therefore less potentially damaging, to their sense of self.

"So they're allowing themselves to also be vulnerable and try this out," Smith said.

They often ask for reassurance that you still like them

When in a relationship, someone with AVPD may look to their partners to know they're internalized self-criticisms are just that.

He said the "Peanuts" character Charlie Brown is a "poster child" for avoidant personality disorder because he engages in negative self-talk and avoids conflict with his peers, two common signs of AVPD.

"More often than not, it's a projection. You know, 'I feel this way about myself, therefore this person must.' They lead these very lonely existences because of it," Smith said.

As a result, they might ask you if you're mad or upset with them, or if you're thinking of leaving the relationship, said Smith.

Read the original article on Insider