Overcoming Avoidant Personality and Social Anxiety, part 4 – conclusions

autumn-in-the-big-city-dmitry-spiros_bw_smallThis is the last post in the series, describing remaining important issues.

I. Defence mechanisms – complement

Let me underscore the importance of the narcissistic defence mechanism. Shame severity is related to the distance between desired self image and real self image. The narcissistic defence increases ideal self image, making this gap wider and the shame more severe.
Grandiose narcissists have a complete defence mechanism, guarding the whole personality structures. It is responsible for manipulating and distorting incoming information, in order to not allow the vulnerable, inner, structures experience the real self image. In case of Avoidant Personality, the narcissistic defence is covering only fragments of the personality, so the perceived real self image reaches personality structures without much disturbance, causing shame and confusion.

Creating connections, targets defence mechanisms indirectly, by repairing the guarded personality structures. With this part of the personality being healed, the necessity of defence mechanism disappears and the defence gradually disintegrate. It is also important to not reinforce defence mechanisms by using them. The usage is often very subtle, like not showing openly that you are special, but letting others, accidentally, discover your unique traits or just fantasizing about it.

A few more words about another, apart from bringing attention, function of excessive joking. Humor (and cynicism) directed at everyday life situations is a way to make a distance between the reality and the joking person. It is a common and useful method to raise a mood in times of hardship. Unfortunately, used frequently, on daily basis, builds just another barrier between you and the world, and therefore should be stopped.

II. Sexual problems

One of the deepest intimate connections between the adult people, is sexual relation. Personality disorder’s problems are all about connections, therefore they are especially magnified in this intimate area of human life. To have a healthy sexual life, one must have a healthy personality.
note: please also see the post about intimacy

People with AvPD often are not able to initiate and sustain an intimate relation. So the main problem is unfulfilled longing for having such relations. This often leads to finding pleasure in pornography and sexual daydreaming.

Unfortunately, being able to establish the relationship is not the end and brings other issues:

  • The first is fear of rejection that still will be present in the relationship,
  • Maybe even more troublesome is the fear of engulfment. Sexual intimacy is close to almost being fused with another person, greatly magnifying engulfment dread. In the result, the emotions can be shut down, by a schizoid-like, defence mechanism.
  • Next comes the immaturity of personality, which is not yet ready to adult-to-adult relations. The partner is often perceived as a caregiver figure, and this is not helping the intimacy. Furthermore, the proximity exposes ordinariness of the partner. The resulting difference between real partner image and desired omnipotent caregiver image, may bring disappointment and repulsion.

Additional problems come with the distorted patterns of relations which bring sexual and emotional arousal:

  • The internal template of “correct” intimate relationships is based on the relations from the early childhood. In this period of life, the personality learnt what is the right way to be intimate. Such relations pattern will be later looked for and rewarded as the most pleasurable. So, e.g. the people being often humiliated as a child or observing adult humiliating each other, will feel sexual pleasure when being humiliated or humiliating. There can be many imprinted patterns, both healthy an unhealthy ones together.
  • The purely physical sex with no emotion attached is another desired kind of relations. It is appealing because lack of emotions means lack of emotional pain.

All the problems presented above often lead to unsatisfactory sexual life with the healthy partner. The desire toward the partner may be diminished or disappear. Instead, the disordered person may feel attracted to cold, detached or harming people. The consequences can be twofold:

  • Lack of satisfaction with real intimacy leads to withdrawal toward pornography and sexual daydreaming.
  • People with a milder form of Social Anxiety may search intimacy in detached short term sexual affairs. Such relations are far from real intimacy and cannot bring longed-for fulfillment. This can lead to even more frequent, compulsive affairs.

Remedies

  • The sexual problems are caused by damaged personality structures like the other emotional problems. The self work described in the previous post will improve functioning in the intimate area as well.
  • The unhealthy sexual behaviour should be stopped to not reinforce the malignant patterns. By unhealthy, I mean the one reinforcing the flawed or undeveloped parts of personality. It can be sexual fantasies or pornography depicting the abnormal or detached relations, or engaging in unhealthy affairs.
  • The breath meditation is a good short term remedy, working thanks to its anti-engulfment effect. Just practice meditation before the meeting with the partner or together with the partner.
  • Sensate Focus is a widely used, long term, sexual therapy method. This is like a meditation on the body of the partner. One of the partners is entirely focused on the other partner’s body, experiencing how it looks and feels like, without trying to achieve sexual arousal. Please search yourself for a good Sensate Focus book or materials if you want to try this method.

III. Handling painful emotions

When overwhelmed by shame, humiliation, envy, anger, hopelessness, fear, sadness or any other distressing feeling, the automatic response is often one of two kinds: either excessive overthinking, analyzing, again and again, the situation that was the source of emotions, or trying to run away from the emotions, by doing anything just to cover the pain.

Both strategies are not particularly effective, to put it mildly. The better solution is yet another form of meditation. Similar to breath meditation, but focused on feelings, instead of breath. Just sit down quietly with the painful emotions and feel them fully. Do not think about them, do not try to make the feelings weaker or stronger. The feelings may induce tension or other sensations in different parts of the body, focus on these sensations as well.
The bad feelings won’t magically disappear, but they will become more bearable.

Most resources dedicated to breath meditation should also cover this variation.

IV. Next Generations

The personality disorders, and mental problems in general, are often multigenerational. They pass on to the next generations, by the poisonous mixture made from flawed genes and unhealthy upbringing. The secret of stopping this plague lies in your children.

The infant development is crucial for the foundations of a healthy personality. A toddler needs parents love and acceptance to create the very first layers in personality structures.

Punishing the infant is the act of pure rejection and engulfment. The infant is not yet capable to do anything wrong, because it’s only learning what it means to be a person. It can be corrected, but not punished. Any form of prolonged isolation of the infant, especially when the baby is distressed or crying, is perceived as an abandonment and rejection. It can have dire consequence for personality development.

The child needs caregiver attention and time, to feel that it she important enough, that she is really loved, that she belongs to the world. There is no “easy way” to take care of the infant. Nothing will prevent the infant from “bothering” the caregivers and “stealing” their time, because she needs them direly. It is not possible to overdose love, so give as much as you can.

The older children bring other challenges.

First and foremost, there is no way to bring up healthy child, not being healthy yourself. Even when not abusing the child directly, the disordered adult’s behaviour will manifest in many ways and will affect the child. It is not major episodic abuse that does the most harm, but the smallest hurtful behaviours, repeated again and again, hundreds or thousands of times. So the main duty is to work on yourself.

For disordered person the growing child independence is a direct threat. The expression of it may be perceived as an attack and responded with rage. In the act of unhealthy defence, the caregiver may try to reject a child or to subdue (engulf) him. The child may also be perceived as a competition and be the source of envy.

Use the methods from the previous post to establish connection with a child. It is also a way to mitigate the damaging aspect of own behaviour. Use a time with him to make connections for his and your benefit. Do not shed away from the child, observe the child carefully in every occasion.

Child misbehaviour is especially important. The punishment may be strict, but must be just and done with love. The child cannot feel that he, as a person, is attacked or rejected. He must still feel loved while being punished. It will allow the child’s personality to integrate the punishment, not as a rejection, but in positive, regulatory way. It requires from the caregiver to be able to deal with sudden, overwhelming negative emotions towards the child. Do not try to directly inhibit or block the negative emotions, but make space beside them, to cast positive ones. Read the previous post for more details. As the child is the closest family member, the physical contact may be incorporated – touching the child’s head, in non-aggressive way, immediately cast positive connection and makes anger controllable. The other method is just to wait until the emotions calm down.

V. Other disorders and self-work prospects

All the Personality Disorders mentioned in this blog are caused by problems with personality development. The presented methods are universal, so seemingly could be used to work on all of them. The reality, however, is more complicated.

  • Schizoid, Histrionic and Narcissistic personalities are protected by strong and complete defence mechanisms, that may reduce the effectiveness of these methods. The real problem, however, lies in lack of motivation. It is hard to imagine the narcissist to have the determination for the necessary self-work. The histrionics and schizoids are probably not much more motivated.
    The most painful aspect of Avoidant personality: bare and unprotected damaged personality structures, almost constantly responding with shame and humiliation, is also its strongest asset. Pain provides Avoidant with the constant motivation, and direct access to damaged personality structures, facilitate the healing.
  • Borderline and Obsessive-Compulsive personalities should be well responsive to proposed practices. Yet, Borderline personality is much more severe, and the methods presented here may be not enough. In Borderlines, the very foundation, the lowest layers of the personality, is damaged, and partially missing. I’m not sure if person alone can rebuild this part, he may need an external substitute of a loving caregiver (often the therapist) to rebuild the broken foundation. Extreme emotional outbursts and suicidal tendencies pose other problems, as they may temporarily arise during self-work. The sufferer should be, therefore, supervised.
  • Psychopaths just don’t relate to people. It is the mechanism that controls personality structures that is broken. So it’s not treatable by using described methods. Sociopaths are somewhere on the road to psychopathy, and the methods can probably work only to a certain limit. The lack of motivation is also obvious in sociopaths.
  • People with Autistic Spectrum Disorders are not treatable as well. They also seem to have the mechanism controlling personality working in a different way, but not quite like psychopaths. They need to be connected and are able to connect, but not to people, only to inanimate objects or abstract concepts and sensations like mathematical figures, music, places, labels, etc..
  • Schizophrenia, Schizotypal personality and (partly) Paranoid personality, have different genesis and also cannot be treatable presented way. This is true for bipolar disorder as well. As for depression, I cannot say, it may depend on the genesis of the particular depression case.
  • I have some hope for positive effects on Dependent Personality, but I do not understand it well enough to make any claims.

That’s all about overcoming Avoidant Personality Disorder and Social Anxiety. I really hope it will help.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Overcoming Avoidant Personality and Social Anxiety, part 4 – conclusions

  1. Hi, whoever wrote the text
    I’m just here to say i profoundly appreciate the effort you put to come with a solution for the common problem we, former (maybe actually) deprived of affect, face within our daily lives
    I know it’s not easy, and it takes so much of us, specifically, to win through this.
    Thanks, sorry for any grammatical or coesion errors (english is not my native language) and I’ll certainly make good use of the steps 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi lonelypsychology,
    Just wondering how your going with your recovery? I really do appreciate the time you’ve put into this, I will start putting into practice your advice. Also, just wondering, how did you find the knowledge behind your articles? Does it derive from psychology or something else? Many thanks.

    Like

    1. Hello Benny.
      As for my recovery, thank you for asking, it’s good, maybe slower in the last few months, because of family matters. Young kids can be really time consuming.
      As for the knowledge. The theory and practices are developed by me, but all this is rooted in three pillars:
      One is contemporary, psychological knowledge. I read a lot in this area and I’m doing it for almost 20 years. However, I’m not a professional psychologist.
      The second pillar is real people: sufferers from personality disorders and other mental problems who describe their struggle on the Internet. It was not only the source of knowledge, but also a tool for validating my theory – countless times I was matching it with real people’s stories (Isn’t it contradictory with this person experience? Can this person’s problems and emotions be explained by my theory?)
      Third pillar is my own experience. Being able to actually feel and recall all these troubled emotions, is often very helpful.
      Best wishes 🙂

      Like

  3. Thanks so much for the comprehensive reply. I’m so happy to hear that your recovery is going well, not just for yourself, but for others as well so to act as motivation to overcome this affliction. I’m currently on day one of a long, long journey. I’ve put into practice your mindfulness, body scan and loving kindness meditation techniques. I’ve also been using the well prepared technique in section 1. I am determined to make improvements in my life with the help of your articles.
    Many thanks once again and cheers from Australia 🙂

    Like

    1. I’m happy to hear that you are determined and that you understand it is a long journey. Don’t ever lose your determination and your hope – better life is waiting for you.
      I wish you a fast recovery and thank you for using my techniques.
      Greetings from Poland 🙂

      Like

  4. Thank you so, so much for this. Your blog posts about social anxiety and avpd are probably the only actual helpful resource I’ve found online. They’ve truly given me hope. None of the resources I’ve found online have been this helpful and accurate, actually giving specific steps to address the problems we have.

    I recently met with a psychiatrist to find out if I had avpd or not, and the conclusion they came to was it was most likely just social anxiety. I know the two are basically the same thing, but I don’t think the psychiatrist really knew much about avpd to begin with, as I know experts on it are extremely rare. I could tell they were just going off of a checklist of the basic symptoms. The questions they asked me were really generic, and when I mentioned some details about how I feel I realized they didn’t think they were relevant or important. During my meeting with them, I never got the chance to mention how ‘broken’ or negative my connections/feelings towards others feel, and when I tried to explain, they didn’t really understand or think it was important.

    I always find myself coming back to your posts because I feel like this is the only resource that actually understands, so I just wanted to thank you. I strongly related to everything you’ve written, and so I feel like I trust you, someone with avpd, over the psychiatrist who was going off of a checklist. I know social anxiety and avpd are more or less a spectrum, but I really do believe I’m leaning more towards avpd in terms of the severity and other details. I could tell I wasn’t being fully understood by them.

    I feel like at most, my psychiatrist and therapist can help me improve my self esteem, but your posts have truly been the only helpful, spot-on resource I’ve ever come across. What you’ve written on forming connections has truly changed me, and is something I don’t think either my therapist or psychiatrist would understand. If you ever decide to write more, I would read the posts in an instant. Thank you again.

    Like

    1. Thank you a lot for your appreciation.
      The fact that my posts are helpful to you, give you hope and even changed you, really means a lot to me. I wrote them just to help people like you and me.

      I’m very sorry about your experience with a psychiatrist.
      I had myself a few meetings with a psychiatrist many years ago, which I dropped because I also felt not understood and rejected by him. Now I think, that he was keeping distant attitude on purpose. It is to prevent a patient from treating therapist as a source fulfilling all their emotional needs – the distance forces patient to seek other options and so to change himself. However, people with avpd, perceive such distance as rejection, therefore they require different, warmer, more accepting, attitude.

      Treating somebody with any personality disorder or social anxiety is very hard and should be specialized – and, as you said, such specialists are rare.
      Moreover, the therapist must have well developed and resilient personality, otherwise the disordered person will induce in him strong negative emotions and effective therapy will be impossible.

      As for the difference between AvPD and SAD: I once tried to decide, based on the formal descriptions of both, if I fall under AvPD or SAD. I found the descriptions to be so overlapping and blurry, that 100% assessment was not possible.
      What really matters is our suffering, not the label we gave to it.

      Wish you all the best!

      Like

  5. Hey

    Hope you are doing well.

    Not sure if I have sent this request before.

    I am scheduling Mental Health Awareness re-blogs for the month of May, can I share a blog post of yours that’s related to the subject in any way.

    Your words can help educate the readers on the subject and give validation to the ones traveling in the same boat.

    Thank you! 🙂

    Like

      1. It depends what is the vision of your re-blogs. I can propose one of these three:
        1. https://lonelypsychology.com/2018/01/14/when-childhood-went-awry-personality-disorders/
        This one contains explanations of personality disorders background. It shows that broken interpersonal connections in early childhood underlie all PDs and how they develop into particular kinds of PDs
        2. https://lonelypsychology.com/2018/07/28/overcoming-avoidant-personality-and-social-anxiety-part-2-introduction-to-practice/
        This one is dedicated to help Social Anxiety and Avoidant Personality Disorder sufferers. It introduces a set of practices designed to overcome these disorders.
        3. https://lonelypsychology.com/2018/04/22/adults-intimate-connections/
        This may be more “interesting” for general audiences as it tackles intimacy and sex. Explaining why this area of life is twisted in personality disorders.

        Like

  6. Dear lonely psychology,
    First off, thank you for all of this research and practice. I am 19, and without your quora answer and this blog I might have persisted with my defense mechanisms for even longer. I will practice these. Other than that I want to ask two things.
    One is how is your self work going? I can’t imagine being able establish a healthy family/relationship.
    Also, I have heard of mdma therapy for treating ptsd and any trauma for that matter, Do you have any thoughts on if this could or could not help with avpd/SAD/defense mechanisms or other pd’s in general?

    Thanks!

    Like

    1. Hello Cahill,
      Thank you, I’m really glad I could be of help 🙂
      As for my self work, to be honest I practice much less since my third, youngest, child started attending daily care and my wife came back to work. No free time and fatique feels my day ;). Still I try whenever I can and I’m making visible progress.
      I know you can have a great family, just keep working 🙂

      As for mdma, I’m not familiar with it. I’m rather sceptical to any forms of drug therapy, even the established one. Healing from PD means growing. No drug can make your personality grow, only life experiences can. I do can imagine that the drug can assist you with that, e.g. by allowing for faster brain reconstruction, but I’m not aware of any drug being proved to have such functioning. And they may bring more damage to your brain than benefits – drugs do not repair one chosen flaw, instead they affect the brain as a whole, mostly in an unknown way – scientists know only how on basic level they affect neurotransmitter communication. It is a lottery.

      I see that MDMA increases self-confidence and sociability. But what does it mean? Maybe it does change your brain and your personality to better, but maybe it just floods it with some positive social neurotransmitter communication – in this second case it may prevent the personality from growing or even deteriorate. It is because the personality doesn’t need to grow anymore – it gets good feeling for free from the drug. Brain works like muscle: muscles grow when you walk, but deteriorate if they are carried by car.
      According to wikipedia “MDMA is illegal in most countries and, as of 2018, has no approved medical uses”. It doesn’t sound good – it means little confidence in positive effects and significant risk of adverse effects.
      I’m not saying mdma won’t help, I don’t know it, but be very cautious.

      Like

      1. Thank you for the reply, and as for the mdma and any drug therapy, your reply makes sense and I think I was searching for an easy way out. Persistence seems to be the key. Thanks

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s