Researchers believe up to five percent of the population lives with a condition called avoidant personality disorder (AVPD), a chronic disorder that affects both men and women in equal numbers. An intense hypersensitivity to rejection and feelings of inadequacy characterize AVPD. Although experts think this mental illness has both genetic and environmental factors, doctors rarely diagnose it in those younger than 18 years of age. Without treatment, individuals may limit social interaction to the point that it inhibits their ability to function day to day.
Children as young as 2 years old may exhibit symptoms of AVPD. Shyness, social isolation, and avoidance of strangers and new places are repeated behaviors that often begin in childhood and evolve into typical patterns as young people age. Those with AVPD tend to be extremely sensitive and fear criticism or disapproval by others. They may feel inept and inadequate in the presence of others. Individuals with AVPD have an intense fear of rejection and may avoid social interactions altogether. Shyness and social awkwardness are common behavioral traits.
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