From a man in Canada: Should someone who has avoidant personality disorder enter a relationship? I have had anxiety and depression for about 15 years now, and within the last 10 years, I have been diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder. I have been seeking treatment in the form of counseling and medication, but I am still quite symptomatic with regards to both the depression and avoidance and my progress has really stagnated for the past 3-or-so years.
As one might expect given the personality disorder, I am basically completely socially isolated. I don’t really have any friends and my last relationship was 10 years ago. I really want some kind of close romantic relationship, but I am really concerned that it would be irresponsible of me to enter into a relationship knowing that I am almost certainly not going to be a healthy contributor to that relationship. I am all too aware of how hard it is to deal with someone fighting depression, and the personality disorder makes me really afraid of doing anything social.
Other symptoms which I don’t think are going to go away are that I am very much a people pleaser and I have very low self-esteem. I also don’t handle conflict in a healthy way. I tend to just blame myself for everything, which again is not at all healthy. I also don’t have a huge amount of faith of the stability of my current job due to my fairly frequent struggles with depression.
So my question is basically given that I am not exactly someone who is mentally healthy nor financially stable, would it be entirely irresponsible if I started trying to date? I feel like the answer is absolutely yes, but I am also aware that my beliefs tend to err on the negative side, so I am hoping that this is something that may be in the cards at some point.
My goal in therapy over the past 5-or-so years has been to improve to a point where I could be in a relationship, but I am starting to be afraid that this might never happen. I am really not a friendship-type person, since I really can only deal with one-on-one interactions, so the lack of a relationship tends to mean that I am just alone, which I have become none too fond of! Thank you.
Thank you for writing. Your letter shows me that your therapy has helped you become very self-aware. It may be time to consider a change in or addition to your treatment plan.
The answer to your question isn’t simple. Yes, you have issues to work on. But the fact is that so does everyone else. The fact that you are desirous of a relationship is an indication that therapy has been successful in helping you get ready to confront the avoidance behaviors that are getting in your way.
I suggest that you and your therapist consider referring you to group therapy now. As valuable as your individual therapy has been, you are talking about your behaviors rather than dealing with them directly. A group requires you to interact with others in the group in vivo. You will be dealing with your behaviors directly and immediately, not just talking about them. In group, you can learn more about how others see you and can safely practice handling things in a new way. You will learn from each other and support each other in your healing.
Do talk to your therapist about either transferring you to group therapy or adding group to your current treatment plan.
I wish you well.