More about Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) and Me

Posted on Feb 18, 2010

Yesterday’s posts were a direct result of a remark that was made at work about me.  I had been told by my cohort and partner-in-crime that the sweater I was wearing wasn’t doing me any favors, because everyone knew that “big girls don’t wear horizontal stripes!”  I know she didn’t mean anything by it; she is very blunt, after all, but due to the fact that I am very aware of the recent weight gain, I have really been working on diet and exercise.  Tea and cokes have been replaced with water; fried sides have been replaced with salad; I opt for grilled instead of fried, I eat fruit and almonds instead of junk food; I dance like a champion on the Wii (okay, that’s a lie…but I try!).  Maybe the results are slow-going, but the criticism really affected me.  I took it as a personal attack against me, and I went home and cried and cried. 

So, knowing how one little comment like that can totally destroy my day, in tandem with the fact that I am so socially awkward and afraid to talk to people, despite my best efforts to be liked and accepted, resulted in my taking the test.   When it said I had an avoidant personality, I started researching Avoidant Personality Disorder further.  They refer to it as AvPD (or Alien vs. Predator, as it kind of looks like abbreviated.  One person on a Facebook Group mentioned that it sounded more serious in this context, saying it was the “end of civilization as we know it, as compared to whether somebody will hurt my feelings”.).  It is absolutely astounding to me how accurate the synopsis of this disorder is in conjunction with my own life. I’m not a hypochondriac (perhaps a little whiny when something hurts, but I don’t make stuff up), and I hate to basically self-diagnose myself, but when I really started reading about it, I started crying and hyperventilating simply because it was so familiar, and seeing it on paper made it all seem so real.  Then the next thing on the list was, “prone to panic attacks and hyperventilation.”  And I just had to smile in spite of myself. 

Dealing with this for a number of years has been a big hindrance in living my life.  There are many things I avoid doing simply because I’m afraid of failing or feeling inferior.  I always wanted to be a journalist, but I nixed the idea when I learned how many communication classes there were and the prospect of going to a new and foreign place and having to talk to and interview people I don’t know.  I did one radio show, and that was how that went—first and last time.  I still love to write, but I like to be the girl behind the curtain rather than the person on center stage.  I don’t mind baring my soul and telling you who I am, as long as we don’t actually have to speak face-to-face or on the phone.

Speaking of my phone phobia, I also found on the Facebook group that I was not the only one with this issue.  Like me, they would rather die than have to talk on the phone.  I don’t mind emailing or texting…if you’ve noticed, my fingers aren’t really that shy.  But some people even have issues with sending emails!  But if someone ever says “Call me…we need to talk!”, I can guarantee you I will come up with an excuse not to.  And at work, if I have to call someone or a list of people, I will beg the other clerks to let me do any kind of job they don’t want to do just so they can handle that part.

Some little biting comment or insult can totally crush me.  I take criticism as an utter personal attack.  I can look outside myself and realize that it’s all silly, that they didn’t mean it that way, but I analyze what they said so much that I have a very hard time taking it with a grain of salt.

Another aspect of people with AvPD is an enriched fantasy life.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that I live in a fantasy world or needed to join the real world!  I’ve always been seriously into books, music, movies, and television shows.  There are fictional characters that I hold as close to me as some real people.  I’d say television is my biggest vice, because I don’t have to say goodbye to the characters so easily.  Getting into fiction allows me to let someone into my life, to get into their head and see what they see.  It’s people-watching to the extreme.  The problem is, I have no part whatsoever in their lives or their world, even though they are an integral part of mine.  I like people; in group settings, while I might be too terrified to speak up, I don’t mind sitting and listening to what people have to say and understanding more about them. They think I’m a snob, but I think I’m just being observant.

I’m not anti-social…I’m really not.  I actually have a pretty decent amount of friends.  And I try to keep those friends as long as I can, even if we lose common interest or the other person turns out to be not-so-great, but that’s only because I don’t really want to have to go out and make new friends (which is incredibly painful) or live with the idea that this person might not like me anymore.  I tend to gravitate towards outgoing, take-charge, control freak-type people.  People who don’t mind initiating conversations, making decisions, deciding where we go and what we do and where we eat.  I think I’ll order what you’re having, if you just want to tell the waiter to make it two. 

One of the reasons things have worked so well for the most part between The Boyfriend and me is that he doesn’t really mind calling people for me, asking the questions I write for interviews, making the overall decisions for me.  I, in turn, handle it when he needs an email sent or a letter written.  I can get so mad that I could spit nails about something, but to the other person, I will duck my tail between my legs and go the other way.  But I will go home and write one hell of a letter.  And speaking of letters, another thing I noticed about the AvPD Facebook group was all the good grammar and spelling.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that on a FB wall before!  When I mentioned this, one member remarked, “I never thought about it, but high intelligence might actually be a risk factor. In any case, we’re generally the kind of people who tend to retreat with a book when the clamor gets too loud.”  Another said, “Could be that we all paid attention in school cause we were too shy to sit up the back and talk to people.  Or it could be that we’re so nervous about rejection we take extra care to make our posts as perfect as possible. For my part, I read a lot of books and have all my life, so I attribute my English skills to that.”

There have been a couple of things that I have tried to do as a result of being the way I am.  For over a year, I worked from home as an internet writer, simply so I wouldn’t have to deal with real-life people in the workplace anymore.  If I thought coworkers were hard to deal with, customers were impossible.  I think that in truth I was just enabling myself, because I retreated even more into myself and became a recluse.  So, I decided that I needed to be out in the real world doing at least some sort of job around people, hence the clerical position.  I realize I don’t really have this problem when I’m around the developmentally disabled consumers, but even though I like most of my coworkers and they mostly like me, I know they can tell there is something kind of off about me (hence the “eccentric” comments). 

On the other side of the coin, at one point, I wanted to battle this head-on.  So, I started modeling.  My logic was this: what’s more intimate than being right there on display in front of a camera?  Ask any photographer who has worked with me why I was modeling, and they would tell you that I was trying to overcome being so painfully shy.  And then they would tell you how awkward I was and how, despite being somewhat photogenic, I was pretty much horrible at it.

So, I can enable, or I can bare my teeth at this and face my fears.  Neither one seems to really help me overcome this issue.  I think the Facebook support group is going to help a little; just to know that it exists is comforting.  But is there a cure?  I don’t drink a lot, but when I do, I joke that I become a “normal person”, because instead of acting crazy like most drunk people do, I seem to lose all these inhibitions and will actually talk to people I don’t know and am very friendly.  So, it has to be some sort of chemical imbalance.  But, since I have no desire to become an alcoholic in the name of normalcy, I am going to have to find some other way to beat this.  Can counseling help?  Some sort of medicine (which I hope to avoid)?  Hypnotherapy?  What works?  There has to be some way to integrate Jebbica into the real world.  Most of the time I can realize that I have a lot going for me, and I am letting this bring me down and keep me from living up to my potential.  There has to be some way to beat it!!

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3 Responses to "More about Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) and Me"

  1. Edgar says:

    Thanks for writing this up, I’m eager to see what you have to say next about this topic.


  2. Jake says:

    Thanks for writing this blog post! It takes courage to write about Avoidant Personality Disorder / Social Anxiety issues.

    I had APD for years and yes it is a true challenge.

    One thing that has really been helpful to me is Social Anxiety Anonymous, they have a (free) ebook and also (free) telephone conference call (and local) support groups for overcoming avoidant personality disorder & social anxiety problems–


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