Avoidant Personality Disorder vs Social Anxiety


Ben Ahrens, HHP

Published on

December 6, 2023

Updated on

March 25, 2024

Medically reviewed by

Ben Ahrens, HHP


Shyness and fear of rejection are two incredibly common emotions that individuals may show based on different situations they can find themselves in [1]. It is quite natural and common but for some people, it might feel a little different. Because when the shyness and fear are so intense, these emotions can influence the long-term behaviors of that person such as various kinds of social inhibitions like avoiding gatherings, public events, and other kinds of get-togethers. Avoidant personality disorder (APD) is known as a personality disorder in which the person experiences difficulty engaging in social interactions. People struggling with APD, live through a feeling of inadequacy and therefore they may show more sensitivity or fear toward the words or behaviors of others. This includes both the personal and professional life of anyone suffering from APD. The tendency to suppress uncomfortable emotions is often developed in many people, be it consciously or subconsciously as a means of coping with the uncomfortable feelings and sensations.  ism. What are the symptoms of APD?

  • Fear of rejection or disapproval
  • Oversensitivity to criticism
  • Feeling of inadequacy
  • Social inhibition[2]

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) can cause disturbance in a person’s social life, daily routines, or other activities. In social anxiety, sometimes called social phobia, the person is extremely anxious or embarrassed because of the fear of being judged negatively, rejected, or scrutinized. Social anxiety is a common anxiety disorder; nearly 15 million American adults are struggling with it according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America[3]. Likewise APD, social anxiety interferes in a person’s life, from doing the daily routines to the general enjoyment of life. And this itself results in other anxiety or mental health disorders. Drinking alcohol as substance abuse, isolation, negative self-talk, low self-esteem are some examples.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

The symptoms vary. They may be physical or behavioral. For physical symptoms[3][4]:

  • Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  • Nausea
  • Vertigo
  • Blushing
  • High heart rate
  • Shaking
  • Rigid body posture

And for behavioral symptoms:

  • Excessive worrying about different social situations
  • Avoiding social interaction
  • Feeling embarrassed
  • Being anxious
  • Fearing being judged

Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) vs. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Although APD and SAD are alike in some characteristics such as social withdrawal, they differ from each other in some aspects.

  • Origin: Except for childhood history or any negative experiences which are mutual between APD and SAD, performance anxiety, i.e. worrying about not being able to accomplish a task or doubting whether it’s done perfectly, generates social anxiety disorder. On the other hand, avoidant personality disorder mostly comes from negative self-evaluation and expanding such beliefs that others are highly critical of them, too.
  • Classification: APD is a personality disorder, while SAD is classified as an anxiety disorder. Personality disorders are defined as constant behavioral patterns and inner feelings, these patterns are not exclusive to a specific occasion. But anxiety disorders are internal reactions to a certain stimulus such as fear or worry.
  • Insight and Approach: comparing the perceptions of people with SAD and APD, it seems the image is more rational for people with SAD. Because they do not overgeneralize it and to some extent, they know it comes from their harshness, although they might find it hard to control at the moment. In APD it is more like people have attributed everything to themselves. As if someone has justified their mental criticism.

What causes APD and SAD? And how do they develop?

There is no specific root cause for APD. The factors that researchers agree upon are biological factors and the environment. We all know how trauma and childhood experiences can affect our lives in the future, and APD is not an exception. But even traumas are recoverable. The same is true for SAD. It is derived from inherited traits, the amygdala (a structure in the brain that controls fear), and the environment but it is not 100% genetic, and therefore curable. General anxiety, on the whole, comes from the primary system programmed to protect us through neural pathways, so it is neurological rather than psychological.  As you are able to change your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors using neuroplasticity training, you can overcome these obstacles in social situations[1][5][6].

How to rewire your anxious brain?

This question is what many people seek the answer to. In the modern world, where all people are facing developed or developing issues, anxiety or particularly “social anxiousness” seems like an obstacle in life.

Let’s stop and reflect for a moment. When the experience of anxiety arises, is it really you who is anxious, or is it your brain’s neurochemistry?

The human brain is by far, among the most complex systems in the universe. It is responsible for organizing and coordinating trillions of bodily reactions. Most of the time, these interactions function harmoniously which results in a state of ease. But sometimes, due to past trauma, genetic predispositions, or conditioned learned experiences, these systems can become deregulated. It’s this dysregulation that is often experienced as agitation, discomfort and anxiety[7].

So, what should you do to rewire this smart brain in situations that make you anxious?

  • Understand that when you’re feeling anxiety, it’s not saying anything useful or important about you. It’s just your brain trying to regain balance and control.
  • Become aware of any thoughts that may be arising as a result of the agitation
  • Interrupt and replace them with new thoughts that give you a more positive sensation  

The primary step for solving social anxiety is to know the reasons that lead your mind and thoughts towards it. Therefore, when you feel anxious, it is healthier to keep the focus on the benefits of the situation or any positive thoughts that can re-align your limbic system to a calmer state. Later try to keep your thoughts classified and categorized. For example, if you are anxious during meetings, small gatherings, or any other social situations, keep the repeated thoughts on your checklist. The simplest way is to write them in your journal, as well as try to settle a plan for controlling them[8]. In the end, one of the most important things to keep in mind is to keep the focus away from negative thoughts and pay attention to the positive one (give power and mental energy to the good, not the seeds of anxiety)

The second step could be making what is known as the “know, accept” strategy, which means recognizing the negative pattern your thoughts have fallen into and changing that pattern to a more effective one. Although it should be mentioned that using this strategy might cause variable emotional results psychologically in the short term.  What re-origin pays attention to in its neuroplasticity training program is to help you learn how to reframe your thoughts and move forward despite any negative feelings. This paradoxically often leads to a reduction in such feelings.

By feeling more relaxed, it becomes easier to manage any apprehensions that trigger negative emotions resulting in feelings of social anxiety. . You do not need to be afraid of your thoughts, otherwise, you should know why they show up on some special occasions and what causes your emotional state to switch into anxiety, replacing those feelings with more stable ones[9].

As we are covering the common issue of social anxiety and the possible ways to solve or at least diminish its side effects, knowing this anxiety is the outcome of “fear” then looking forward to that could help it be more effective.

For example, if you are anxious while lecturing at university or a meeting and you have found out the emotions and thoughts are due to the fear of public speaking (also known as Glossophobia), you also may find a way to stimulate your thoughts and overcome the fear[10].

Imagine you are supposed to talk in front of 10 people according to your job task, the first step is to know your thoughts, they might be “I’m not good enough”, or “I can’t make any mistakes during the lecture” the second step is to accept what you are feeling at the moment and try to reframe it into softer thoughts such as “I might make a mistake as other people may do” or instead of minding “everyone thinks you are incompetence”, consider that audience want you to succeed.” Now, you can think better and find the root of your thoughts like the fear of speaking in public, so you can find better methods to face the issue. In the last step after stipulating your thoughts and finding the proper method, you can change the group size of your audience, from small to bigger ones[11].

How we approach avoidant personality disorder and social anxiety disorder

Like any other type of anxiety, social anxiety is an exaggerated reaction aiming to protect you against the signals that the limbic system is sending as danger. This means that you are bearing the stress or anxiety that is a made-up response generated by your brain as a protective function; so, it is not you, it is your brain wiring. The same applies to the shyness, inadequacy, and hypersensitivity a person with an avoidant personality disorder is feeling. What re-origin does, is put the focus on the root of what you are feeling and start the solution from there.

Through re-origin’s specific neurocognitive exercises you will gain the perspective necessary to reverse the symptoms and change the brain’s old programmed neural pathways into new ones, ones that best suit your health.

Neuroplasticity helps you to rewire the limbic system and retrieve the normal and balanced thoughts and as a result, experience a long-lasting recovery.

How to live and cope with avoidant personality disorder and social anxiety disorder

At re-origin, living and coping with the persistent feelings that have inhibited you from a peaceful and happy life is not the solution. Our approach is to eliminate the main root causing the current condition. The re-origin program includes a five-step neurocognitive technique aiming to undo and rewire the old faulty conditioning in the brain and create new, functional neural pathways. It is easy to follow and requires dedication and repetition. Moreover, re-origin’s neuroplasticity training program has been efficient for other limbic disorders such as general anxiety and depression, too.

A final word from re-origin

Avoidant personality disorder and social anxiety may be problematic situations because they interfere with your life to some distinct extent including even your day-to-day life. Since you may struggle with these disorders in different scopes and intensities, it is good to consider that:

  • You are not the only one, hundreds of people have the same struggle
  • Your current thoughts and feelings are the result of the faulty wiring in your brain
  • You can rewire your brain and recover using re-origin’s program
  • As long as there is hope, there is a way/ method for treatment.

There is no need to bear these permanent dodge feelings. Our neuroplasticity training brings a full recovery from the symptoms, by rewiring your brain and affecting the overactive limbic system which leads to having a calm brain and healthy body.

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Frequently asked questions

Can someone with avoidant personality disorder be in a relationship?

Of course. Through some treatments and gaining some skills, intimacy in a relationship is quite possible[12].

What is an example of avoidant personality disorder?

They prefer to work alone rather than in a team because they are worried about being judged or criticized by others.

What is an example of avoidant personality disorder?

They prefer to work alone rather than in a team because they are worried about being judged or criticized by others.

What are the three symptoms of avoidant personality?

Dodging social activities like work and school, low self-esteem, and self-isolation

What is the real cause of social anxiety?

There is no exact reason but it is mostly rooted in biological factors and the environment. Such as being shy in childhood, being bullied, abused, etc.

Is social anxiety normal?

Social anxiety is a common issue in the modern world, and everyone has experienced it at least once. The important subject is to stop it from growing and treat it at the early stages.


  1. How Is Avoidant Personality Disorder Different From Social Anxiety? (2022, February22).VerywellHealth. https://www.verywellhealth.com/avoidant-personality-disorder-vs-social-anxiety-5211323
  2. What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder? (2022, February 22). Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/avoidant-personality-disorder-5211328
  3. Higuera, V. (2018, September 3). Social Anxiety Disorder. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/social-phobia#symptoms
  4. Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) – Symptoms and causes. (2021b, June 19).MayoClinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353561
  5. Felman, A. (2020, October 8). What to know about social anxiety disorder. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/176891
  6. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/avoidant-personality-disorder
  7. Alzheimer’s Research UK. (2022, February 17). Think Brain Health. https://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/brain-health/think-brain-health/
  8. Lehal, M. (2018, April 14). 5 Ways to Train Your Brain to Fight Anxiety. Wake Counseling & Mediation. Accessible From: https://www.wakecounseling.com/therapy-blog/train-brain-to-fight-anxiety
  9. Troy, A. S., Shallcross, A. J., Brunner, A., Friedman, R., & Jones, M. C. (2018). Cognitive reappraisal and acceptance: Effects on emotion, physiology, and perceived cognitive costs. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 18(1), 58–74. Accessible From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6188704/
  10. Morris, S. Y. (2019, January 30). Glossophobia: What It Is and How to Treat It. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/glossophobia#causeswww.healthline.com/
  11. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition , American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, National Institute of Mental Health (2021 Dec 12) www.psychologytoday.com accessible at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/conditions/social-anxiety-disorder-social-phobia
  12. GoodTherapy Editor Team. (2019, June 11). Avoidant Personality. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/avoidant-personality#:%7E:text=Partners%20of%20those%20with%20avoidant,to%20maintain%20fulfilling%20intimate%20


Ben Ahrens, HHP