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Mental Health Use this forum to share your mental health concerns and to seek advice.

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Avoidant personality disorder? - October 2nd 2011, 03:12 AM

I'm a second year psychology student at a university, so I know better than many that self-diagnosis is a bad idea, and using the internet and mere undergrad psych tools to do so will cause more harm than good.

However, I'm a little unnerved. I've recently become aware of avoidant personality disorder, and not only do I believe I fit many of the symptoms... my parents and boyfriend have been trying to get me to realize that something isn't right for years.

I self-isolate and feel lonely virtually 24/7, even when I'm surrounded by people who say they care about me. Social situations don't scare me, but I avoid parties and large groups like the plague because they make me feel uncomfortable and out of place. Similarly, any kind of familiar physical contact (especially hugs, but any touch can do it) with anyone but my boyfriend or mom makes me feel upset and sometimes panicked. My self-esteem is, according to others, really low.

I don't go out much, except to go to class. Most of my time is spent playing video games or browsing the internet (my boyfriend is long distance at the moment so we chat sometimes there)... and, truthfully, home is the only place I feel comfortable. I tend to feel resentful and distance myself when I feel rejected, even over silly things... and oftentimes the people I distance myself from never come back. I don't mean to do it, but I do it over and over again, and here I am, alone on every Saturday night...

It has been this way for quite a long time. I've known I was a loner-type, but it seems startlingly clear to me now that something isn't right. I'm unhappy all of the time, and, well...

What do you think?

Here's the thing, though: last year, I quietly visited the university's therapist, concerned over issues with coping with the death of my grandmother, and I found it extremely difficult to discuss things with her. She asked all the wrong questions, and after two sessions she told me she didn't think I needed help... even though I felt no better than I had before I sought help. I don't want to go back to her, but I don't know if I feel comfortable giving the few people I've kept in my life a new reason to leave it.

I'm not sure what to do.

Support, advice... I'd thankfully take any of it!




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Re: Avoidant personality disorder? - October 2nd 2011, 04:45 PM

I don't really have any advice, except for the fact that the past few months I've been thinking I have it too. It's the only time I've looked at something and thought "Oh my gosh, I could never explain it fully before, but that's exactly how I've been feeling".

Mainly due to the fact that I 'fear rejection' so much, that I'd rather just avoid any social contact I can, even if it meant putting myself out there would cure it. At school, I'd go home for lunch alone instead of being with my 'friends'. I would avoid any sort of parties, even though I desperately always wanted to go. And when I did, I'd go to the bathroom as many times as I can, or walk around just so I wouldn't have to socialize with people. 'Loner' would probably be the best word to describe me.

Like you said, from what I've heard of how dangerous self diagnoses can be, I obviously don't want to see a therapist or doctor and right away state "I think I have avoidant personality disorder", so I've never known how to approach it.
   
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Re: Avoidant personality disorder? - October 2nd 2011, 05:21 PM

Honestly, it could be Avoidant Personality Disorder... or it could just be the side effects of a very low self-esteem. There are also other mental illnesses that have similar symptoms, so to focus on one seems silly.

Perhaps try going to a professional, with a note in hand explaining all these things, and that you feel something isn't right because of the symptoms you just mentioned to us.


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Re: Avoidant personality disorder? - October 2nd 2011, 05:45 PM

One of the things we all learn studying psychology is to never, ever try to relate anything you're learning to yourself, ever! You'll end up either working in McDonald's or in a straight jacket.

Learning theoretical information is a lot different than applying it (that talent comes in graduate school and after). So, even though you might seem to have some behaviors that fit certain diagnostic categories, there's a lot more sophistication involved in determining if the presence of those behaviors (and their etiology) actually rises to the level of an actual 'diagnosis' or presence of a clinical problem.

We also learn never, ever to use unverified/simplistic approaches (Read: The internet) with something as complex as diagnosis.

We also learn never, ever to cross that line btw'n 'Helpfulness' and downright recklessness by offering a diagnosis online (whether to opine if you 'have' something or 'not').

So, with all of those qualifiers that you already know, why did you do all of the above?

The answer is that regardless of what you have (or what others think or don't think) you have, you still believe there's something wrong. And because no one knows your experience of yourself better than you, you should assume you're right.

So the task now is to not obsess over what it is or what to call it, but to just use your acknowledgment of your unhappiness to find someone (obviously with more experience than your Uni therapist) and get to the bottom of it.

Most spend way too much time trying to figure out what something is, instead of just acknowledging it's there and taking action. It's that last part that leads to improvement, you don't need to know with precision what it's called for that to happen.

Find a good therapist.


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Re: Avoidant personality disorder? - October 2nd 2011, 06:14 PM

Climber: I did/do many of those things myself! I can relate so much. Good luck finding a solution!

Thirteen: True. I locked onto one because I felt the DSM symptoms fit me, but I'm sure it could be a variety of things.

Dr.Bobby: Um... how could that lead to working at McDonalds?
The problem is that I don't even know how to begin looking for or going to a reasonable therapist, especially quietly. I live with my parents, and I can't really afford things on my own (though I do have a little job), so there's almost no getting around that.




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Re: Avoidant personality disorder? - October 3rd 2011, 02:27 AM

Hello, Jamie!

There are many therapists who offer "sliding scale" fees to individuals with low incomes (or, in your case, who are financially dependent on other people, such as their parents). If your insurance will cover a visit to your regular doctor, you could schedule an appointment for a general exam, then ask for a referral at the end of your appointment. You could try visiting the university's psych services again, but ask for a list of nearby therapists who offer "sliding scale" fees. You could also request to see a different therapist/psychologist at your university's psych services office, and this time, bring a list of the problems you're experiencing and what you would like to accomplish in therapy. Finally, there may be community/non-profit clinics in your area that offer free group therapy sessions.

I understand you're concerned about other people finding out, but if something really is wrong and needs to be treated over the course of your lifetime, wouldn't it be in your best interests for your family to understand the situation fully? Just something to think about - after all, you said your parents and boyfriend have been dropping hints for a while. They may even be relieved to discover you're actively seeking help for these problems.

I'm not going to repeat everything that Dr. Bobby said, but I am going to emphasize once again that you are not supposed to start with a diagnosis and fill in the blanks from there. It doesn't matter if you match the criteria perfectly - the problem is that you haven't ruled out other possibilities. Avoidant personality disorder is placed on Axis II, but there are many mental illnesses that could be placed on Axis I and account for most or all of the problems you are currently experiencing. You also haven't ruled out general medical conditions, which would be placed on Axis III. If you're currently enrolled in a psychopathology/abnormal psychology course, then you know it's important for a psychological professional to speak with you over several sessions and slowly get an idea of what's going on. That's why I think it would be beneficial to bring a list of the problems you're experiencing and going from there, vs. finding a therapist/psychologist and saying, "Hey, I think I have avoidant personality disorder, and this is why."

I wish you all the best of luck.





   
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