In today’s age, good mental health is increasingly recognized as an essential aspect of a balanced lifestyle. While discoveries about the brain are being made daily, modern science has advanced to the point where mental disorders can be diagnosed and treated confidently. Two of the most prevalent mental conditions in the United States are social anxiety disorder and avoidant personality disorder. In fact, statistics show that the prevalence of avoidant personality disorder alone in US adults is 2.4%.
Both of these disorders can lead individuals to feel profoundly anxious in social contexts. Despite a genuine longing for social connection and intimate relationships, individuals with these conditions often avoid social interactions whenever possible. Such behavior, over time, can considerably impede one’s capacity to foster healthy relationships, advance in one’s career, and sustain a high level of self-esteem.
With so many known conditions, it’s unsurprising that many have overlapping conditions. When it comes to social anxiety disorder and avoidant personality disorder, the two can be hard to differentiate, causing many to misdiagnose themselves. Learning the difference between each disorder can prevent misdiagnosis and promote good mental health.
Social Anxiety vs. Avoidant Personality Disorder
While these two disorders have overlapping characteristics, they are not the same and can be distinguished by a few key factors, including:
One of the most significant differences between social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder is that those with social anxiety often recognize that their fears are completely irrational. While people with social anxiety fear rejection and embarrassment, they may have high self-esteem in other areas. On the other hand, people with avoidant personality disorder feel that their humiliation and rejection are inevitable.
Those with an avoidant personality disorder will have an underlying sense of inadequacy that causes them to feel that their rejection from society is only a matter of time—they do not see these fears as irrational but rather necessary. Those with social anxiety will feel anxious in social situations and may even have low self-esteem, but they can recognize that such fears have no basis.
Another difference between the two disorders is the cause of their development. While experiencing abuse or other adverse effects in childhood is a common cause, other environmental reasons can differ. Some research suggests that avoidant personality disorder may be more likely to develop after one has experienced unexpected physical changes, such as after an illness.
Conversely, those with an active amygdala are more likely to develop social anxiety as they cannot adequately regulate their response to fear. Understanding how anxiety affects the brain can provide deeper insights into this connection. In terms of genetics, those with a parent or sibling with social anxiety are up to six times more likely to develop the condition themselves, according to the DSM-5.
While social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder can be treated using the same methods as most personality disorders—including therapy and medication—their most effective treatment differs. Those with avoidant personality disorder are better off seeking treatment via therapy. This is mainly because the root of this disorder is an inherent sense of inadequacy that leads to a fear of eventual social rejection.
To eliminate the problem at its source, therapy is generally needed to correct such thinking. Social anxiety is often treated with medication, healthy eating, and exercise. Since those with social anxiety know their fears are irrational, treating the symptoms can effectively neutralize the disorder.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is a disorder that causes everyday interactions to trigger extreme anxiety, self-consciousness, and embarrassment, likely due to the fear of being scrutinized or judged. While feeling nervous is expected in some situations, those with social anxiety experience severe feelings of anxiousness even in seemingly basic social scenarios. This constant stress can disrupt one’s life, affecting relationships, work, school, and daily routines.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Feelings of nervousness or discomfort in social situations are not necessarily signs of social anxiety because everyone’s natural comfort level is different. However, when someone exhibits abnormally strong feelings of fear and anxiety over social situations, it might be time to consider anxiety treatment, especially if these intense feelings hinder daily life.
There are many symptoms of social anxiety, and while they may not be present, those diagnosed usually exhibit more than one during their condition. The symptoms of social anxiety can be broken down into physical and emotional behaviors for easy recognition.
Some of the emotional symptoms of social anxiety include:
- Excessive worrying about potential embarrassment
- Intense fear of interacting with strangers
- Avoidance of doing things out of fear of embarrassment
- Anxiety in anticipation of a feared situation
- Anxiety throughout social situations
- The expectation of the worst possible outcome in social situations
Similarly, some of the physical symptoms of social anxiety include:
- Difficulty catching breath
- Muscle tension
What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?
Avoidant personality disorder is a condition that causes chronic feelings of inadequacy, along with high sensitivity to the potential that others will judge one. While those with avoidant personality disorder may long to interact with others, they avoid social interaction entirely due to their intense fear of rejection.
Like social anxiety, social anxiety disorder can potentially damage those diagnosed’s relationships, careers, and education. Thus, treatment must be sought right away to avoid any long-lasting effects.
Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder
There are several symptoms that those with an avoidant personality disorder may display. These include:
- Easily hurt by criticism
- Have few close friends and are reluctant to form new relationships
- Extreme anxiety in social situations, causing them to avoid interacting with others
- Awkward and self-conscious around others due to fear
- Reluctance to try new things
- Poor self-image
- Tendency to exaggerate even minor issues
Inpatient Mental Health Treatment – Acera
Seeking professional help for mental health disorders is crucial to successful recovery and long-term well-being. Inpatient mental health treatment is a form of intensive therapy where individuals stay at a facility and receive round-the-clock care from a team of experts. This type of care addresses severe symptoms, provides a safe environment, and offers therapies that help individuals overcome challenges and achieve mental stability. It also provides insights on topics like how to manage anxiety without medication.
Acera Health, one of Orange County’s premier mental health treatment centers, provides comprehensive inpatient care tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Here’s what sets Acera Health’s inpatient program apart:
- Personalized Treatment Plans: At Acera, a team of experienced professionals assesses each patient’s condition and devises a customized treatment plan. This ensures that therapy and interventions are tailored to the patient’s requirements.
- Multidisciplinary Approach: Acera’s team consists of psychiatrists, therapists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who work collaboratively to provide a holistic approach to treatment. This multidisciplinary method ensures that every aspect of a patient’s health is addressed, including questions such as “is anxiety considered neurodivergent?” to fully understand the spectrum of their condition.
- Safe and Therapeutic Environment: Acera’s state-of-the-art facility offers patients a tranquil and safe space. The environment promotes healing, allowing individuals to focus solely on their recovery.
- Evidence-Based Therapies: Acera Health prides itself on utilizing therapies backed by scientific research. This includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, group therapy sessions, and more, ensuring patients receive the best care.
- Aftercare and Support: Recovery doesn’t end once the inpatient treatment is completed. Acera provides ongoing aftercare support to ensure individuals maintain their mental health and integrate successfully into their daily lives.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health condition and believe inpatient care may be beneficial, consider Acera Health. Their dedicated team, modern facilities, and evidence-based approach ensure that every patient receives top-tier care and support on their journey to mental well-being.