Avoidant personality disorder, also called anxious personality disorder, and referred to as something like "self-insecure" personality disorder in German, is that second partial diagnosis I got in therapy. I was never quite sure if I recognised myself in it very much, a lot of it is just completely unlike me. The thing is that it has a lot of overlap with social anxiety disorder, to the point that some scientists debate they are really two different names for the same thing. Which is probably the thought behind the diagnosis.
Basically, what we have here is "social anxiety plus", with all the symptoms of social anxiety but going a step further. The core idea behind avoidant personality disorder is that the afflicted always needs his or her "safe place" and feels anxious outside of it. For most people that would be their own four walls, and as soon as they're out of them, it becomes impossible for them to deal with all the new situations outside life presents and they display all the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Inside their home or other safe place they are fine, happy, sociable people, but outside their zone of comfort they get in a terrible state of mind and all their social skills are gone. This is the first part where I really don't see myself in, because I am not dependent on my home, and my personality - or how I display it - in any place I am. So already at the core issue I begin to doubt my diagnosis.
From what I've learned, their are two ways the issues with social skills are displayed when those who suffer from avoidant personality disorder leave their safe place. One of them is a cold and distant personality that does not really participate in social interaction, appears to ignore people and minds his or her business exclusively. Guess that applies to me in some way, but that is also a common social anxiety thing. The other one is something I was majorly offended by the therapist even suggesting it, a type of personality that agrees to everything somebody says and never speaks up for him- or herself in fear of negative consequences. You know, "do you want to go for a coffee?", and you don't want to at all, but you say "yes" because you are scared of the person asking being mad at you. That really isn't me at all. I mean, yes, I have agreed to doing things I didn't feel like to be nice, but everyone has. Never to the degree of a "disorder", or any sort of personality that would do this regularly and forego being independent and standing up for him- or herself.
Another core issue is of course what it says in the name, the tendency, or compulsion, to avoid. Any situation that may cause discomfort must be avoided in this disorder. This goes hand in hand with the safe place thing, of course, where leaving said place is avoided entirely. And there seem to be many stories out there of people who do just that. Situations in which fear might arise are avoided to such an extent and safe havens clung to with such obsession that normal life becomes impossible. It's also where the overlaps with social anxiety come in, in that being situations which are being avoided entirely. It's what Germans call "self-insecure" (I just don't know how to translate "selbstunsicher", it's such an odd word), such a strong barrier of self-doubt that avoiding situations which could go wrong socially becomes a must. Again, this is something that goes too far to properly describe me, so I continue to have serious doubts about the diagnosis, even if it is only a partial one.
The things I did recognise myself in were indeed the overlaps with social anxiety disorder, of course, such as fear of being judged or rejected. But since nothing of the other symptoms applies it seems to make more sense to simply leave social anxiety disorder as a diagnosis and not make up anything else.
There are of course people out there who are aptly described by the outlines of this disorder, and I don't envy them. Luckily, there is treatment, and it's actually fairly simple, as it's the same as for social anxiety disorder: Get out, go out, meet people, interact. Takes a load of practice, but it works. And reaffirm your self-esteem, because you might not think so, but you're actually pretty cool. At least I am, hey, I'm the middle of treatment (self-treatment at the moment, no therapist), starting to think I really am pretty cool. And anyone can. And I'm having fun meeting people. And anyone can do that, too. So if you're reading this, and you're diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder, and it actually describes you well, be sure to have some fun and feel good about yourself, even if it is actually no fun at all at first, and you actually feel crappy about yourself at first. If I can do it, anyone cool enough to read my blog can do it, too.