There is a security in being alone, not letting anyone close enough to hurt you. Its easy to keep going, occupying your mind until you can't actually feel anything. And yet, once you slow down, it all catches up and hits you like a freight train.
(From I want to fall in love)
It was about a week ago that I first stumbled across the description for this and something clicked. Reading those words I had an explanation (not an excuse) that provides a system for a good number of personality attributes that manifest.
Before continuing too far I wish to make note of a set of diagnosis guidelines from WHO.
F60.6 Anxious (Avoidant) Personality Disorder
Personality disorder characterized by at least 3 of the following:
- persistent and pervasive feelings of tension and apprehension;
- belief that one is socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others;
- excessive preoccupation with being criticized or rejected in social situations;
- unwillingness to become involved with people unless certain of being liked;
- restrictions in lifestyle because of need to have physical security;
- avoidance of social or occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fear of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.
Associated features may include hypersensitivity to rejection and criticism.
It is easy to put them down in text - it is only after reading them and looking at how they have been manifest in my life and writeups - mostly the darker personal ones such as The empty chair
, There are nights...
, Soulmates who will never ever meet again
, Allow yourself no dreams
and more recently trust
Thinking back on previous events I've gone to gone to there is some confusion over what being 'shy' or an 'introvert' is and how this plays a role in my actions. It is not crowds nor groups of people themselves but rather the interactions that may take place within these contexts. Wandering about an art festival or sitting down to a dinner at a bar with friends is not anxiety provoking. There is little likelihood of any criticism or social rejection there. I am perfectly capable of talking with random people on the street or on the train and occasionally do so (my sister asked me if I was sure I was an introvert after chatting with some people in the line waiting for Attack of the Clones - I didn't have an answer for her then).
The anxiety kicks in when there is the real (or imagined) possibility for rejection. Surfacing clearly in my mind is a coffee house date with a woman (which went on to inspire You've lost all your dreams) or earlier talking with Ashley in the airport (see Soulmates who will never ever meet again). If I may briefly copy part of that writeup here:
I'm scared. It has been far too long since I walked down a hallway chatting with an attractive young woman. And even longer since it was with someone who was interested in who I am rather than what I am.
When I saw you smile as our eyes met, it sent a shiver down my spine along with butterflies to my stomach. I'm still confused about which emotion to trust - if any.
One of the characteristics of those with APD that has been documented is the routine that they fall into often to the point of exclusion of social contact. When going out to eat it is almost always at the same restaurant were it is unlikely that any surprising social contacts will be made. Once again this clearly fits - as some may know I am often at work until late at night, weekends and the occasional holiday. My choice for eating out is almost always the same restaurant (I switched restaurants about a year ago after being on vacation for the summer and upon returning realized that almost the entire wait staff had turned over - looking back on it this would mean new social contacts if I had decided to continue). When it comes to the days I go out to eat at the bar, it is the near dead times - Monday and Tuesday night and late afternoon to early evening on the weekends. I often find myself alone at the bar.
Meeting people of the appropriate gender for anything more than a purely platonic relationship is difficult. Within my mind, there is this concept of a 'safe' woman - one who is impossible to fall in love with (and thus little chance of rejection) for whatever reason (in another relationship, too old, too young, etc...). Women who are not 'safe' - the ones I can fall in love with - are extremely anxiety provoking to meet. There is this ideal that I have and have had for quite some time - an attractive and intelligent young woman coming up to me and essentialy hitting me over the head and saying "I'm attracted to you" out of the blue. The last part is probably the most important - being out of the blue, there is no anxiety.
The Internet provides those who are shy with a much less anxiety provoking outlet for meeting other people. Writing a 'hello' as an email, chat, or similar interaction is not anywhere near as bad as going up to a real live woman in a pub and striking up a conversation. In many online dating sites the standard 'rejection' is receiving no response at all. While disappointing, this is not anything on the order of the magnitude of never call again.
Assuming, somehow, that an individual with APD does meet someone with whom there is a mutual romantic possibility (rather than one sided infatuation) there is the issue of trust - the quest for the certainty of acceptance and no rejection. One of the ways this manifests is in finding (searching for) someone that is needs the other person so as to give that unconditional love without any fear of rejection - the princess always loves her white knight who rescued her from the dragon.
Another characteristic of people suffering from APD is the strong memories of every (or nearly every) past hurt and humiliation in life (yes, if you're willing to sit down I could likely give you a fairly good account of them). These memories are "reviewed" compounding their strength and making it that much more difficult. Each new possibility for hurt revives those memories in all their 'glory' - often providing more than enough incentive to avoid the situation altogether.
One of the ironies with APD is that it is typical to avoid seeking medical treatment, be it a simple dentist visit or standard physical to the anxiety of trying to seek out a cure for the disorder itself.
It is important to realize that there is a spectrum from avoidance as part of a healthy personality to the unhealthy end being the disorder when this fear gets in the way with living. Likewise, it is fairly normal for there to be some avoidance as part of an individual in adolescents which many people grow out of, hence it is difficult to make a diagnosis of an adolescent as having APD where they may just be suffering from some normal sensitivity and mood swings that are common in the teen years.
While APD is rather rare (estimated at about 1% to 0.5% of the general population), it is quite reasonable to say that E2 tends to attract the outliers of the population and there may very well be a higher than normal density.