Many individuals exhibit some avoidant behaviors at one point or another in their lives. Occasional feelings of self-doubt and fear in new and unfamiliar social or personal relationships are not unusual, nor are they unhealthy, as these situations may trigger feelings of inadequacy and the wish to hide from social contact in even the most self-confident individuals. An example would be the anxious hesitancy of a new immigrant in a country with a different language and strange customs. Avoidant characteristics are regarded as meeting the diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder only when they: begin to have a long-term negative impact on the affected person; lead to functional impairment by significantly altering occupational choice or lifestyle, or otherwise impacting quality of life; and cause significant emotional distress.
Avoidant personality disorder can occur in conjunction with other social phobias, mood and anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. The diagnosis may be complicated by the fact that avoidant personality disorder may be either the cause or result of other mood and anxiety disorders. For example, individuals who suffer from major depressive disorder may begin to withdraw from social situations and experience feelings of worthless-ness, symptoms that are also prominent features of avoidant personality disorder. On the other hand, the insecurity and isolation that are symptoms of avoidant personality disorder can trigger feelings of depression.
The characteristics of avoidant personality disorder may resemble those found in both schizoid and schizo-typal personality disorders. Persons with any of these disorders are prone to social isolation. Those diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder, however, differ from those with schizoid or schizotypal disorder, because they want to have relationships with others but are prevented by their social inadequacies. Persons diagnosed with schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders, on the other hand, usually prefer social isolation.
Personality disorders are usually diagnosed following a complete medical history and an interview with the patient. Although there are no laboratory tests for personality disorders, the doctor may give the patient a physical examination to rule out the possibility that a general med-
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