A person who has an avoidant personality disorder is aware of being uncomfortable in social situations and often feels socially inept. Despite this self-awareness, comments by others about your shyness or nervousness in social settings may feel like criticism or rejection. This is especially true if you are teased, even in a good-nurtured way, about your avoidance of social situations. If you have APD, your shyness most likely grew as you got older. It may have gotten to the point that you began avoiding other people and certain situations.

Avoidant personality disorder causes a fear of rejection that often makes it difficult to connect with other people. You may be hesitant to seek out friendships, unless you are certain that the other person will like you. When you are involved in a relationship, you may be afraid to share personal information or talk about your feelings. This can make it difficult to maintain intimate relationships or close friendships.

How to identify Avoidance Personality Disorder

Avoidant behavior may commonly be seen in children or adolescents, but a diagnosis of a personality disorder cannot be made in childhood because shyness, fear of strangers, social awkwardness, or being sensitive to criticism are often a normal part of child and adolescent development.

  • You tend to avoid work activities that involve contact with other people. This is due to fear of rejection, criticism, or disapproval.
  • You are unwilling to get involved with other people unless you are completely sure that they like you.
  • You tend to hold back in relationships because you are afraid that you will be embarrassed or ridiculed.
  • You’re unlikely to try out new things or to take risks in life due to fear of potential embarrassment.
  • Perception of self as inept, unappealing, and inferior.
  • You are reluctant to take personal risks or become involved in new activities because they may become embarrassed

Self-help strategies for Avoidance Personality Disorder

  • Identify several small ways that you’d like to connect with others, such as initiating a conversation or sending a thank-you email. Make a list of these ideas, and try to tackle one each day or each week.
  • Being assertive is a skill that you can learn and master with practice. You can learn to say no, ask for what you need, and set boundaries to create healthy interactions and relationships.
  • Engaging in healthy habits gives you the energy and fuel to tackle difficult situations and challenging lessons in therapy. For instance, focus on getting enough sleep, and incorporating nutrient-rich foods into your diet.
  • Engage in physical activities you enjoy. Exercise helps you to feel empowered, reduces stress and anxiety, and boosts mood.
  • Also, focus on pursuing hobbies that contribute to your life in a meaningful way, which can include easing into interactions with people who share your passions.


The avoidant behavior typically starts in infancy or early childhood with shyness, isolation, and avoidance of strangers or new places. Most people who are shy in their early years tend to grow out of the behavior, but those who develop avoidant personality disorder become increasingly timid as they enter adolescence and adulthood.

People with avoidant personality disorder may have some ability to relate to others, and the ability can be reinforced and improved with treatment. Without treatment, those with avoidant personality disorder may become resigned to a life of near or total isolation. They may go on to develop a second psychiatric disorder such as substance abuse or a mood disorder such as depression. While shyness is not a disorder, help from a health-care provider or a psychiatrist is important if shyness or fear of rejection overwhelms a person’s ability to function in life and form relationships.

Word from CBT Kenya

If you struggle with how to not be socially awkward and think you might have avoidant personality disorder, it’s important to not be discouraged. Help is available and the first step is reaching out to your doctor. Or any another mental health professional who can conduct an evaluation and assess your condition.

Therapy in a safe and encouraging environment that can help you explore the intense anxiety you experience in social situations. Together, you and your therapist can practice challenging negative beliefs and explore the small but significant steps you can take to build solid friendships, be more engaged at work, and develop intimate relationships with others.

CBT-Kenya (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Kenya) counseling center offers counseling and therapy sessions for persons from all walks of life. We focus on helping clients gain insight into themselves by going through a healing process. Our purpose is to help you to achieve your therapeutic and life goals, to improve the quality of your life and to help you to build strong relationships in your life. Get in touch or book an appointment on +254 739 935 333, +254 756 454 585 or info@cbtkenya.org.