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What is the Difference Between Avoidant Personality Disorder vs Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is often confused with Avoidant Personality Disorder and the other way around. They share many of the same traits but are entirely separate conditions. What a therapist might do to address one issue, they might not do for the other. The distinction between these two mental health conditions is important for the success of the client.

What is Social Anxiety?

A person that is experiencing social anxiety might have different emotional triggers that cause them to feel as though they are frozen, not themselves, or the intense need to flee during social situations. These frequent feelings can emotionally condition them to avoid social events altogether.

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Avoidant personality disorder is a type of anxiety disorder in which the client might have a poor self-image or a fear of judgment that leads them to not only avoid social events but to avoid any place where those things by be present.

Symptoms might include:


Very few friends

Extreme Anxiety



Easily Embarrassed

Exaggerate problems

Afraid of new things

Poor Self-image

The Key Similarities that Confuse their Definitions

Both mental health conditions might bring up feelings of fear regarding social situations where they might be expected to interact with others. Common situations that can be a source of anxiety might include parties, family gatherings, group settings, and other similar situations.

Take Note of the Differences

The key difference between Avoidant Personality Disorder vs social anxiety is the degree to which the client is afraid and the types of situations they tend to avoid.

For a socially anxious person, group settings and parties tend to be the extent of where their anxieties are experienced. Sometimes a socially anxious person might be afraid of talking to people they do not know, making phone calls, or situations where they have to present themselves to others for the fear they could be judged.

Avoidant Personality Disorder takes the fear of judgment and self-image issues to an entirely new level. Someone with APD might go so far as to avoid going to the grocery store, eating out at restaurants, or anywhere where there might be people at all. Avoidant Personality Disorder vs social anxiety can result in other issues like agoraphobia or the intense fear of leaving one’s house.

Treatment for Social Anxiety

Some of the treatments for Social Anxiety vs Avoidant Personality Disorder are similar. Treatment for social anxiety vs Avoidant Personality Disorder include:


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is known as one of the most effective types of psychotherapy for anxiety and has been found to be effective in both individual and group settings. According to Mayo Clinic, exposure-based CBT allows clients to gradually work up to facing the situations that induce their social anxiety. An example of this might be slowly exposing a client to different levels of social situations.


There are several different types of medications that are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. Some of the most common ones include different forms of SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors which are often the first try for providers prescribing for social anxiety issues. Other medications include SNRIs, Antidepressants, and beta-blockers.

Alternative Remedies

Some providers and their clients have found success in treating social anxiety vs Avoidant Personality Disorder through the use of alternative remedies. These remedies might include herbal supplements, meditation, mindfulness, and more.

Treatment for Avoidant Personality Disorder

Treating personality disorders can be extremely difficult as those issues tend to be deep-rooted and long in history. Avoidant Personality Disorder vs social anxiety could be treated in the following ways:


Psychotherapy continues to be the main form of treatment for Avoidant Personality Disorder vs social anxiety. CBT for APD focuses on overcoming fears, changing thought patterns, changing behaviors, and building healthy coping strategies for their anxiety.

Combination Medication and Psychotherapy

Rather than just one or the other (which is sometimes acceptable for just social anxiety) APD often requires the combination of both medication and psychotherapy. Many of the same medications used to treat social anxiety are also used to treat APD.

Social Skills Training

For individuals that lack the essential social skills needed to overcome Avoidant Personality Disorder vs social anxiety, social skills training has been shown to be effective.

Schema Therapy

Schema therapy is the process of guiding a client through the process of identifying maladaptive thought patterns and emotional models (schemas) and changing them.

Support Groups

Support groups for individuals with APD is a great place for the client to both exercise social skills and be around like-minded individuals


Teaching clients how to self-soothe in anxious situations can be very effective for helping them navigate experiences that trigger their APD.

While Avoidant Personality Disorder and social anxiety share a lot of common characteristics and treatments, the two are still very different.

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