Avoidant Personality Disorder vs. Social Anxiety: Understanding the Differences

Dr Lisa Turner

Dr Lisa Turner

A renowned visionary, author, channel, and master spiritual teacher, who has shared her proven spiritual technology with over 30,000 spiritual practitioners worldwide.

Avoidant Personality Disorder vs. Social Anxiety

People with Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) have a persistent and pervasive pattern of avoidance of socialization and interaction with others. This may be due to inadequacy, extreme shyness, or sensitivity to criticism or rejection. 

As a result, people with AVPD often experience significant difficulties in work and social situations. On the other hand, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by an intense fear of social problems, particularly those in which the person may be exposed to unfamiliar people or scrutiny by others. Unlike AVPD, however, SAD does not necessarily involve avoidance behavior; instead, it is the fear that causes distress.

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Avoidant Personality Disorder is a psychological condition characterized by an overarching pattern of reticence, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative assessment. Individuals with AVPD habitually dodge social circumstances and relationships due to an apprehension of dismissal and the notion that they are not satisfactory. They can also possess low self-regard and doubt their skills.

Symptoms of AVPD may include:

  • Avoiding social situations and activities due to a fear of being judged or rejected
  • Struggling to form and maintain close relationships due to a fear of rejection
  • Feeling inadequate and inferior to others
  • Having low self-esteem and a lack of confidence
  • Struggling with assertiveness and a tendency to avoid confrontations
  • Difficulty expressing emotions and vulnerability
  • AVPD often begins in childhood or adolescence and persists into adulthood if left untreated. It is estimated to affect about 1% of the general population.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder sometimes referred to as social phobia, are afflicted by an intense apprehension of social circumstances and a fear of being judged unfavorably by others. Those with SAD might prevent social occurrences or experience tremendous nervousness and unease. Additionally, they can encounter physical signs such as trembling, perspiring, and accelerated heartbeat when participating in social interactions.

Symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Extreme fear of social situations, especially those in which they may be judged or evaluated
  • Avoiding social problems or enduring them with severe anxiety and discomfort
  • Physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating, and rapid heartbeat when in social situations
  • Difficulty making eye contact or speaking in front of others
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships due to a fear of rejection or embarrassment
  • Worrying excessively about social problems before and after they occur
  • SAD often begins in adolescence or early adulthood and can significantly impact a person’s ability to function in daily life. It is estimated to affect about 7% of the general population.

Similarities Between AVPD and SAD

A few commonalities between AVPD and SAD can make distinguishing between the two conditions challenging. For instance, both typically involve feelings of anxiety and social isolation. Additionally, people with either illness may avoid certain situations or activities out of fear of embarrassment or negative evaluation. 

However, there are also some critical differences between AVPD and SAD. People with AVPD tend to be more aware of their anxiety and worry more about being rejected or embarrassed than those with SAD. Additionally, people with SAD are generally more likely to experience symptoms in different social situations. At the same time, those with AVPD are more likely to only experience symptoms in particular circumstances.

Both disorders involve issues with pooled connections and associations, and people afflicted by either condition may dodge social situations due to a dread of dismissal or negative assessment. Likewise, both disorders may include diminished self-regard and an absence of assurance in social circumstances.

Differences Between AVPD and SAD

Although there are some resemblances between Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), there are also particular distinctions between the two conditions. AVPD is characterized by an intense fear of social situations, while a fear of embarrassment or judgment in social situations more specifically describes SAD. 

AVPD sufferers may also avoid work or school out of fear of social interactions, whereas SAD sufferers may still be able to function in these settings despite their anxiety.

Most people with SAD can be diagnosed with AVPD as well. The most crucial distinction between the two disorders is that AVPD is a character disorder, while SAD is an anxiety disorder. Character disorders involve long ways of thinking and behaving that do not match social expectations and result in significant distress or impairment in someone’s life.

Conversely, anxiety disorders are typified by excessive apprehension and dread that meddles with daily activity.

A significant distinction between Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is that AVPD involves a pervasive sense of insecurity and inadequacy. In contrast, SAD is characterized by an apprehension of social contexts and a dread of being evaluated unfavorably by others. 

Individuals with AVPD may also lack assertiveness, have difficulty expressing their emotions, or feel vulnerable, while SAD usually involves physical manifestations of anxiety in social settings.


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