Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) in teenagers typically presents as withdrawal from socialization or interaction. However, unlike simple introversion, APD behaviors are usually extreme, stemming from deep feelings of inferiority or self-hatred. Introversion, on the other hand, is a preference; it just means a person prefers to socialize in small groups and avoid crowds. A person with Avoidant Personality Disorder actively fears socialization and may feel as if they will come to great harm if forced into it. Teens with APD blatantly obsess over what others think of them. Their inability to form bonds with others and extreme shyness can make it very difficult, or even impossible, to maintain relationships.

What Does Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder Look Like?

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder paralyzes teens with social anxiety. Due to their fear of being embarrassed or rejected, they will completely avoid socialization and lack the social skills and confidence to interact fluidly and confidently with others.
  • This stunted ability to engage with others is very harmful to development. It also significantly stifles the development of relationships and interactions with others, leading to heightened behavioral issues in everyday settings, like school or work.
  • Teens often experience extreme inferiority issues.
  • They may also completely or partially lack socialization skills.
  • They often struggle with familial and friend relationships.

Signs of Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder

Severe avoidance of social interaction

Intense fear of social inferiority

Hiding opinions, ideas, and beliefs

Avoiding socialization (work, school)

Extremely Low self-esteem

Severely vulnerable feelings about any critique

The Different Types of Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder is usually diagnosed as a specific part of a pre-existing personality disorder. Dr. Theodore Millon, an American psychologist renowned for his work on personality disorders, further categorizes Avoidant Personality Disorder into four sub-types:

Conflicted Avoidant - This sub-type of Avoidant Personality Disorder is characterized by severe negativity in the person’s view of the world, and especially themselves. People with this sub-type have an encompassing pessimism toward life, other people, and themselves.

Hypersensitive Avoidant - People in this sub-type have extreme inhibitions that occasionally lead to paranoia. They struggle with ceaseless tension and paranoid thoughts. This heightened sense of terror and fear can lead them to be abrasive towards others.

Self-deserting Avoidant - This type of Avoidant Personality Disorder presents as an incessant concentration on other people, to the point of ignoring, or not even being aware of, your own needs. Symptoms of this sub-type can be dangerous, including depression, suicidal thoughts, and a disregard for oneself.

Phobic Avoidant - People with this sub-type will avoid any and all situations or contexts that makes them uncomfortable. The Phobic Avoidant sub-type includes fixed, set fears of what the future will bring, such as vivid imaginings of the worst way a situation will go, and a paralyzing fear of that outcome.

Request a Call

  • We are here to assist you and answer your questions, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.
Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

What Are the Causes of Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) and social anxiety share similar characteristics and symptoms, but APD is much more severe and rare. It can be difficult for people without APD to sympathize or understand, as a person with this disorder has fears and thoughts so different from what the majority of others experience.

Despite how much info we now have, the root causes of APD aren’t always known. Beyond simple fear, people with APD grapple with severely warped perceptions of themselves. Causes of this disorder can be a blend of both environmental and experiences factors, biological factors, lifestyle, and memories, especially if traumatic. APD most often develops in children as a result of chronic PTSD or a history of emotional and physical abuse.


of the U.S. has APD


of those with APD have trauma histories


of people who suffer from APD are also addicted to drugs

How Can I Help My Teen With Avoidant Personality Disorder?

A parent or friend’s first task in helping someone with Avoidant Personality Disorder is to learn more about the condition. Beyond just learning simple terminology, reach out to therapists and professionals to discuss the condition and treatments and how you can be a good ally.

If you do not have APD, you may find it almost impossible to comprehend the disorder and how it feels to have it. Ease this lack of understanding by learning more about the condition and how sufferers experience it. Seeking outside help is one of the best ways to learn new ways to empathize with your teen. It is also the best way to empower yourself with information to help you create a healing, healthy environment at home.

What Types of Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatment Are Available?

APD is an extremely complex disorder. Therefore, treatment approaches must be sensitive and customized for your teen’s individual personality, their sub-type, their experiences, and other associated environmental factors. The most common treatment for APD is a combination of medication and therapy to relieve volatile or specific symptoms, such as anxiety, fear, or depressive thinking. However, other treatments are available.

Talk Therapy 

Talk therapy can be beneficial and successful in teens with APD. Specific fears and ways of thinking require different talk therapy types to oppose, overcome, and come to terms with their symptoms. Teens can also learn healthy types of socialization and interaction from therapy. It can also give them tools to help cope with root issues that might lead to APD, such as severe, warped perceptions of themselves and others, fear of abandonment and rejection, and low self-esteem.

As teens with this disorder go through therapy, they often begin to value their worth, understand their warped self-views, and gain more insight. These changes allow them to replace their old, destructive habits with new, healthy skills so they can practice engagement and socialization with others.


Some symptoms of APD, such as anxiety or depression, may be ameliorated by medication, especially if they become so severe that the teen cannot participate in therapy. Prescribing medication is more common when teens also have a comorbid diagnosis, such as severe Clinical Depression or Bipolar Disorder. Medication is usually recommended as a way to manage symptoms so a teen can get the most out of therapy, not as a lasting or permanent treatment.

Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Paradigm San Francisco provides a place where teens can find healing. Unlike a torn muscle or sprained ankle, where the body heals itself, healing the mind is different. It often requires consistent, long-term professional intervention from qualified therapists to achieve success.

Remember: APD can be very complex. It carries several symptoms that can be part of APD or a sign of a concomitant mental health disorder, including problematic behaviors and thought patterns. At Paradigm San Francisco, our therapists work with each patient to understand this disorder and the patient as a whole, instead of just a collection of separate parts.

This comprehensive treatment approach includes integrating a teen’s feelings into their treatment to best understand and address how the disorder presents. Everyone with APD is different, but for some teens, addressing the symptoms is enough to resolve APD. This includes symptoms such as fear of rejection and self-hatred, and is especially important when there is a diagnosis of Depression and PTSD.

Paradigm San Francisco strives to help teens by providing a safe, healing space free from stress. We work with teens, parents, families, loved ones, and professionals to find the best approach for your child. When teens come to Paradigm, they can truly focus on healing and living a healthy, complete life, not just daily stressors like school or friendships.

Paradigm was a wonderful choice for our daughter/family because it worked at the root of her/our problems. They continually told us that her behavior (outburst, failing school, isolation, food and withdrawal) was just a symptom of a deeper problem. Paradigm was beautiful, clean and caring. I would highly recommend Paradigm to anybody looking to make a positive change in their child's behavior.

- Tracie R.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder

Why does Avoidant Personality Disorder develop?

Usually, there isn’t just one cause of APD. Instead, the disorder usually develops due to an amalgamation of conditions and experiences that coalesce over time. Extreme physical and mental trauma, including bullying, significantly increase your teen’s potential to develop APD, but family history is also an important factor. A teen who has relatives with APD may be more likely to develop it themselves due to embarrassing or painful social interactions or negative experiences as a child.

I’m doing okay. Why should I get treated for Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Humans have an astounding ability to cope and adapt to their circumstances, almost to the extreme. It is entirely possible to have Avoidant Personality Disorder, live with it, be “okay” with it, and never get treatment.

Despite that, APD is often progressive. Avoiding stressors and triggers helps, but it is not always enough to make teens with the disorder feel safer or more comfortable. Instead, symptoms often accelerate, triggering Depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. APD is not something people should have to live with. We believe everyone deserves the chance to thrive and live their best, healthiest, happiest life.

Ready to take the next step?

Call now for a free assessment with a counselor or to start the admissions process.
We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.
Call Now