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Aspergers and the "Avoidant Personality" Type

Children, teens and adults with Aspergers (high functioning autism) vary in personality types. One type of personality is called “avoidant.” Avoidant personality is characterized by a pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation. This type of "Aspie" is often described as being extremely shy, inhibited in new situations, and fearful of disapproval and social rejection. Avoidant personality becomes a major component of an Aspie’s overall character and a central theme in how he relates to others.

Avoidant Personality in Aspergers Adults: Case Study—

A 30-year-old computer programmer with Aspergers presents for treatment at the urging of his new girlfriend whom he met online. He describes himself as being painfully shy since childhood. There is no history of language delay, odd interests, or unawareness of social cues. On the contrary, he tends to over-interpret cues, believing that he is being negatively viewed by others. He has always had difficulty forming close friendships – not because of a lack of desire – but because of an intense fear of rejection and disapproval. He endured adolescence with difficulty as his self-esteem dropped. In college, he became absorbed in his studies and avoided most social encounters because they were so difficult for him. After graduation, he looked for work that would minimize social interaction and opportunities to be judged by others. He did manage to meet his current girlfriend through a social networking website, but she complains that he does not relate to her in an intimate manner.

Aspies with avoidant personality tend to do some of the following:
  • Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  • Stays quiet or hides in the background in order to escape notice
  • Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  • Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
  • Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing
  • Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
  • Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
  • Drinks before social situations in order to soothe nerves
  • Avoids social situations to a degree that limits activities or disrupts life
  • Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection

The following situations are often stressful for Aspies with avoidant personality:

• Attending parties or other social gatherings
• Being called on in class
• Being teased or criticized
• Being the center of attention
• Being watched while doing something
• Eating or drinking in public
• Going on a date
• Making phone calls
• Making small talk
• Meeting new people
• Performing on stage
• Public speaking
• Speaking up in a meeting
• Taking exams
• Talking with “important” people or authority figures
• Using public bathrooms

Emotional symptoms of avoidant personality include:
  • Excessive self-consciousness and anxiety in everyday social situations
  • Extreme fear of being watched or judged by others, especially people you don’t know
  • Fear that others will notice that you’re nervous
  • Fear that you’ll act in ways that that will embarrass or humiliate yourself
  • Intense worry for days, weeks, or even months before an upcoming social situation

Physical symptoms of avoidant personality include:

• Feeling dizzy or faint
• Racing heart or tightness in chest
• Red face, or blushing
• Shortness of breath
• Sweating or hot flashes
• Trembling or shaking (including shaky voice)
• Upset stomach, nausea (i.e. butterflies)

For Aspies with avoidant personality, evaluating for the presence of psychiatric disorders, particularly major depression, substance abuse, and other anxiety disorders, is extremely important. Because “social anxiety tendencies” are often found in other family members, a family psychiatric history is beneficial.

Help for Aspies with Avoidant Personality—

1. Avoid or limit caffeine. Coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, energy drinks, and chocolate act as stimulants that increase anxiety symptoms.

2. Challenge negative, unhelpful thoughts that trigger and fuel social anxiety, replacing them with more balanced views.

3. Drink only in moderation. You may be tempted to drink before a party or other social situation in order to calm your nerves, but alcohol actually increases your anxiety in the long run.

4. Face the social situations you fear in a gradual, systematic way, rather than avoiding them.

5. Get adequate sleep. When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more vulnerable to anxiety. Being well rested will help you stay calm in social situations.

6. Learn how to control the physical symptoms of social anxiety through relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.

7. Quit smoking. Nicotine is a powerful stimulant. Smoking leads to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.

8. Take a social skills class or an assertiveness training class. These classes are often offered at local adult education centers or community colleges.

9. Volunteer doing something you enjoy, such as walking dogs in a shelter, or stuffing envelopes for a campaign — anything that will give you an activity to focus on while you are also engaging with a small number of like-minded people.

10. Work on your communication skills. Good relationships depend on clear, emotionally-intelligent communication. If you find that you have trouble connecting to others, learning the basic skills of emotional intelligence can help.

The opposite of the "avoidant personality" is the "approach personality," which is discussed in another post (click here).

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Married to an Aspie: Advice for the Neurotypical Spouse


Many “neurotypical” spouses (i.e., the spouse without Aspergers) often feel overly responsible for their Aspergers partner; however, it is important to acknowledge that there is choice connected to that responsibility.

If you choose to take on responsibility for others, decide on how much and when you feel it is appropriate.

Tips for the neurotypical partner:

1. Acknowledging that your Aspergers spouse will “not get better” or be “transformed” into the person you thought he was can sometimes help with your tolerance level. Certain behavior can be modified or changed, which can make daily life less stressful for both you and your Aspie. For example, routines and agreed timetables can help, as can looking at how you talk and what language is used. With acceptance of the condition come a range of other issues, such as grief and the realization of what is not going to be. For some, there will be a feeling of disappointment, loss and unfulfilled potential. Talking to a counselor can really help. They can listen and empower you to explore the issues, emotions and choices.

2. Do not leave ambiguity in your statements, and do not assume your wishes or emotions are acknowledged and understood. For example, it may not be enough to remind your Aspie that you have family over for a meal. You may need to go through the evening in detail, explaining what you want him to do, and not do (e.g., greet everyone once, and don’t go to bed before the guests leave, etc.).

3. Know that you are not alone (although it may often feel as though this is the case). Professionals are getting better at recognizing the condition and developing appropriate service – although this will often seem too slow for many needing help now. Use what help is available through a partner support group and/or counseling.

4. Often times, neurotypical partners spend so much time looking after others that their own needs are not acknowledged by themselves or others. Decide what you want and how you can get it (e.g., where can you go for conversation, support, etc.). Take time out to pamper yourself – whatever helps to relieve your stress.

5. Try and see what structures may help and what may hinder. For example, it might be important to agree how meal times will be conducted (e.g., sitting down together at the table). To be rigid on all times (e.g., we will eat at 6pm) may be more difficult if you cannot always meet the schedule (e.g., dinner at 6.15pm may cause stress to both of you).

6. Aspergers is a complex condition, and it is important that your source of moral support is informed and understanding of these complexities. The benefit in talking to someone who understands many facets of Aspergers should not be under-estimated.

7. Ending the relationship is certainly an option. It is important to get legal advice so that you understand the financial and practical implications of separation. Advice from a legal professional is exactly that – it does not mean you have to leave; it can just help eliminate the unknown. Counseling can be helpful in making the right decision about whether or not to file for divorce.

Helping Your Aspergers Child to Make Friends: 10 Tips for Parents

Always an eccentric youngster, your child has now been diagnosed with Aspergers (or high functioning autism). The social world of kids is chaotic enough these days, but a child on the spectrum is particularly challenged. Nonetheless, with the parent’s help, an "Aspie" can find - and keep - friends. Here’s how:

1. Align your own expectations with reality. Know that the Aspergers youngster will probably not be popular, but can be happy and fulfilled with just one or two good friends.

2. Encourage your youngster to notice when other children are interested in him, because he may not pick up on attention. Impress upon him that it's important to remember classmate's names and use them in conversation.

3. Find a therapist who specializes in, or at least understands, children with Aspergers. Your child will have issues around being "different" that he must discuss with someone, preferably a qualified professional. He may need further help in setting social goals.

4. Know that Aspergers is defined as a pervasive developmental disorder on the autism spectrum characterized by a discrepancy between intellectual and social abilities.

5. Know that your Aspergers youngster may appear to be indifferent to his lack of friends. Many of these children care deeply, but have simply given up on having a social life.

6. Limit solo activities such as video games, but know that too much social time can be overwhelming.

7. Locate Social Skills groups in your area. They usually consist of three or more children of the same age who meet once a week to interact socially under the guidance of a therapist. The goal is to take their new skills into the broader world.

8. Support your child in setting up social activities. She may be uncomfortable asking someone to just "hang out," so a movie and ice cream may be more desirable.

9. Understand that those who have Aspergers have difficulty understanding social cues, although they are often academically advanced.

10. Urge him to join school clubs. Many Aspergers children have very specific interests and can parlay their skills in this area into a social activity.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content