GREAT NECK, N.Y., June 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- A pioneering psychotherapist has published a new paper linking narcissistic thinking with avoidant personality disorder, which is characterized by avoiding human interaction because it causes social anxiety.
"I have often referred to avoidant personality as an addiction and a compulsion because the behavior is so ingrained," says Jonathan Berent, LCSW, ACSW. The avoidant person may go to extreme measures to avoid panic symptoms erythema (blushing); hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating); dysfluency (stuttering, stammering, "drawing a blank"); and selective mutism (a compulsive inability to speak in certain situations).
Pathologically avoiding exposure to social anxiety/social phobia triggers can result in failure to meet personal and professional obligations, sometimes at the cost of relationships or employment. "As the fear of embarrassment, humiliation and shame increases, the person enters into an avoidance vortex from which they feel like they cannot escape," Berent says. "Narcissistic thinking results, dominating their decision making and behavior. I have concluded that narcissistic thinking is what allows the avoidant personality to detach from work, family, and social obligations rather than endure anxiety symptoms."
Avoidant personality disorder occurs in an estimated 5.2 percent of the U.S. population annually. Social anxiety disorder occurs in 6.8 percent, and within that 6.8 percent, almost 30 percent of cases are considered severe. Although research on the avoidant personality exists, very little has been written about its connection to narcissism; nor is there significant interest in the compulsive component of avoidance. Berent hopes his paper will prompt further research into the connection between the two.
Clinical Insight After 35-Plus Years Treating Avoidant Personality Disorder: Narcissistic Thinking in an Avoidance Vortex draws not only on Berent's clinical observations, but also on a literature review and interviews with numerous patients. One highlight is an extended narrative based on an interview with a patient who has avoidant personality disorder and describes the narcissistic vortex that leads to her thoughts and behavior.
In documenting the connection between social anxiety, avoidant personality disorder, and narcissism, Berent says he hopes to offer insights that will enhance treatment for both diagnoses and to prompt further research in support of that treatment. "I hope by reporting some first-hand observations," he writes, "I can shed light on the complex thinking that goes into clinically diagnosed avoidant behavior."
"Clinical Insight After 35-Plus Years Treating Avoidant Personality Disorder: Narcissistic Thinking in an Avoidance Vortex" by Jonathan Berent, LCSW, ACSW, author of Beyond Shyness: How to Conquer Social Anxieties (Simon & Schuster), Work Makes Me Nervous: Overcome Anxiety and Build the Confidence to Succeed (Wiley), and Social Anxiety: The Untold Story (Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety).
His website, www.socialanxiety.com, has had more than three million visitors.
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SOURCE Jonathan Berent