35 thoughts on “Does Childhood Emotional Neglect Cause Avoidant Personality Disorder?

  • October 7, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Maybe this post just didn’t apply to me, but I thought it totally did until I got to this part:

    “All of the questions at the beginning of this article have one common denominator that drives them. It’s a feeling and also a belief. That common denominator is this: a deep, powerful, perhaps unconscious feeling that you are not as valid as everyone else. Somehow, on some level, you just don’t matter as much.?

    For me, that’s not the case at all. I think I’m awesome. Throughout my life, it’s been a lot of OTHER people who have thought otherwise and gone out of their way to let me know it. I think that other people have a hard time categorizing me and that causes some of them to react negatively to me. It’s at the point now where I do make negative assumptions about how others perceive me, but that’s because I’ve often had the experience of others being critical or downright abusive. I don’t think I have a fundamental issue with my sense of self-worth, I’ve just internalized a negative message about myself that’s been repeated over and over by other folks.

    Just speaking for myself, though, obviously.

    • October 9, 2016 at 11:30 am

      I had nearly the same reaction you did to this post – everything applies to me except for the feelings of inferiority and fear/shame. Your description of your sense of self worth is something with which I identify strongly. Although the social feedback I receive consistently reinforces the idea that I don’t matter, I haven’t internalized those messages to the point where I believe that I am not as valid but rather have come to the conclusion (does “faced the reality” seem too pessimistic/defeatist/bleak in this context? idk) that this is the reaction I elicit from the vast majority of people with whom I interact.

      I am a diagnosed schizoid. While SPD and avoidant personality disorder share some symptoms I find that where that overlap ends the contrast is rather significant. I’m not trying to give you an armchair diagnosis here, though – it’s totally possible that we both experience similar social stigma and that is the extent of our similarities.

    • October 12, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      You make a point, Mandehble. I’m an introvert who constantly, constantly checks to see how people react to me. I think I’m a nice person but it’s my being an introvert that make people nervous. So I see that and then all bets are off. I wish people would stop judging the book by the cover. It takes me awhile to get comfortable with people but a lot of people are not willing to take the time. I identified with 5 points but not with the ones about shame or feeling less worthy. I’m comfortable with myself.

      • October 18, 2016 at 11:28 am

        You guys have nailed it. I had to find my own self worth, since it didn’t come from parents or extended family. I find myself getting angry when it seems like everyone, from acquaintances to friends to coworkers to bosses to the guy who works at the grocery store, acts like I’m less worthy. Why? There is obviously something about me that elicits this reaction in people. I’m very introverted, yes, but I’m not harming anyone. I’m polite and helpful when necessary but still find my self, feelings, actions, life invalidated at every turn. I don’t need the outside validation anymore, I’ve learned to cope without it, it just angers and bewilders me that others never want to give me the minimum respect they require for themselves. All the other avoidant points are me dead on though.

      • July 1, 2018 at 12:11 pm

        I can relate to the anger you mentioned. I grew up with so much verbal and physical abuse, and grit my teeth through it all. But I had no idea how much anger was in me till I left home. I somehow managed to get what seemed a more normal life. But went to a lot of therapy, unfortunately with social worker who criticized my outward appearance (“why can’t you comb your hair”) or psychiatrist who did not think my childhood was significant. My anger and avoidance was driving people away. But so was my anxiety. The bad therapy I endured (esp group therapy: one person said “ I triggered them”) has caused me to stay reclusive now that my kids are grown. I know it isn’t good, but the shame of being criticized in therapeutic settings has hurt just as much as my childhood.

    • April 2, 2018 at 7:23 am

      I can very much relate to your post. Inside, I’ve always had a solid sense of worth. It became a way of coping to assume others are receiving me in a negative way from my experiences, but inside, I’ve always cherished ME & considered my thoughts, feelings, and all ‘they’ had no interest in, worthwhile. “Their loss” was an inner theme.

  • October 8, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Are you reluctant to pursue goals, take risks, or meet new people?
    Are you highly sensitive to criticism, and fear rejection?
    Do you assume that others see you in a negative light?
    Do you try not to get too close to people?
    Do you suspect that you enjoy things less than other people do?
    Do you often have anxiety in social situations?

    I never knew there was a name for or accepted symptoms of ME! I have spent my entire life ashamed for the very fact that I was born. I can’t remember a time in my life when I was accepted and/or even welcomed anywhere and being the singular fat girl in all of the schools I attended, there was no time when I wasn’t belittled and criticized for my size. I can tell you true horror stories but I’ll stop here. I’m 61 years old and I spend most of my days looking forward to no happier event than my own death. I need to find help but I don’t know who to trust. Who’s going to believe a loser like me or blame me for the problems I had. I’m safer just staying home.

    • October 12, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      I’m with you on your symptoms except for feeling less enjoyment than other people. I feel less enjoyment when I’m bored and stuck in a rut. I, too, was the chubby kid all through my life. My mother’s family were and are big on looks, face and body. I was the only chubby cousin among 30 of us. On top of that I wear glasses, and had acne! And everyone let me know. What exacerbates that is I’m overly sensitive. It makes me wonder if being constantly nullified because I was chubby has made me sensitive. It has gotten worse, this sensitivity as I get older. but that is my introvertedness and peoples reaction to it that get me. As far as looks, eh. Cousins who were previously slim are now bigger than I am! It’s a secret glee and my dad was in on it! You know what I have learned, Edath? It’s that people who make fun of others are trying to displace attention to their shortcomings on to other people. It’s all about them, not you. I hope you’ll take that to heart.

    • April 2, 2018 at 7:28 am

      That is just heartbreaking. My hope is that you find new hope in every new day since you have this validation.

  • October 9, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    As usual this article is on par with how I feel daily. I already know I’m a CEN child and have started seeking out therapy to try and deal with this neglect. I just wanted to comment that even the “That common denominator is this: a deep, powerful, perhaps unconscious feeling that you are not as valid as everyone else. Somehow, on some level, you just don’t matter as much.?” I always put everyone first , their feelings are more important, my life and my feelings don’t matter and I don’t value enough to even share them most times because they are pointless. Since I can remember I always put others needs before mine and now I have no idea how to make myself realize that I’m on the same level as anyone else. It’s a hard habit to convince yourself when you don’t trust your own opinion because you’ve been convincing yourself for so long that it doesn’t matter…. If that makes sense.

    • October 13, 2016 at 1:38 am

      Dear Ashley.
      I was reading through the blogs and something you said struck a nerve and I wanted to address it. It was what you said about putting others first. I so relate to that. I have been working on self care for a long time. But by putting all others first, I had trouble feeling ok about putting myself first. It was such a surprise to realize that the practice of putting others first is not considered healthy. And the question asked of ecn people; what were you avoiding in your childhood home, well when I thought about that and realized I was trying not to be targeted for abuse, and then the connection between putting others first and hiding out seemed obvious.

      I currently live off off grid by myself and it’s been hard. At first a friend joked w me about how I tortured myself being so alone, but I’m hardly capable of not putting others first.

      I’m working w a therapist because I want to figure out a healthy way to be w people and I haven’t figured that out yet. But I’m working on it. I think the answer lays somewhere in the authentic self arena. And I’m still working on that question.
      Thank you for your honesty. It always helps to have a mirror. Good luck to you

      • April 2, 2018 at 7:40 am

        Roux, Your post is intetesting to me because I have thought of living off the grid myself for some time. I am curious if you put yourself in places where you are in close proximity, yet not fully engaged with people. I find that a consistent theme for me..sort of an ‘outside looking in’, only reversed, and an ambiguous feeling around it.. sort of wanting to be ‘part of the group’, but when I am, anticipating getting back to being alone where I am WAY more comfortable. Still though, I want to be somewhere close, sort of on the sidelines where I can feel like I’m part of the activity of life, but not exactly.

  • October 9, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    It’s as if; our parents were poorly taught and cared for, times seemed harder then,1940-50’s,then when it came to raising us, the continued neglecting behaviors are perpetuated, Looking at my grandmother and her grandmother, I can see how my mom got to be critical,, and further extend that expectation onto her daughter, it’s only in stepping back can you see where certain traits and behaviors began. We often don’t see how society has set up and further enforces these high expectations,
    If society wasn’t so hard on each other then maybe ppl wouldn’t be harrased based on what they believe ppl should look like or act like, it’s truly an awful world we live in. Where more hate is outside your door, it’s hard to build confidence, or self esteem in world’s where everyone competes and insults one another. Sometimes what we learn to deal with at home, however harsh it may be,,can often prepare us for the more harsh reality of the greater world. I have read somewhere we are only given what we can handle/manage in life.

    • April 28, 2020 at 7:02 pm

      I hate it when religious people state that God will not give your more than you can handle Yeah right. This is the first time I have heard of Avoidant Personality Disorder which is why I avoid people; however, it is not entirely my fault when the people who I have to deal with go out of their way to make my life miserable and in various ways, make you feel that you are not part of society. Frankly, I rather deal with dogs because they give unconditional love where human beings put too many conditions on you before they love you.

  • October 10, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    I think this is very useful information, and given a bit of courage and go, most CEN peeps can make headway. Given my personal experience of dealing with this stuff I can assure the timid, of which i was a card carrying member, that changes can be made which will allow you to create your own self fulfilling prophesy of enduring happiness, in spite of subliminal messages which imply otherwise. It is possible to rewire your neural pathways, via affirmations and cognitive changes, particularly under the care of qualified professionals. This way is markedly quicker than DIY though in the context of the fulsome professional advice on this site, it can be done alone….Being of a non toxic process unlike mind altering drugs, there isn’t a dependency issue, unless you like the nice feeling of being Ok after your damn hard work and no f–er can take it away from you..
    Try it and good luck..Oh I forgot ,you start making that as soon as you get started, nice side effect if your into that sorts stuff…

  • October 12, 2016 at 10:52 am

    I have some of these traits and have always had a very well developed sense of my self-worth. I have a lot of confidence. My son also suffers from all of these traits, but I wouldn’t say he feels low self-worth. I was well-loved by my parents, who were kind, capable, and created a home that was a warm, safe haven. My son has also been well-loved and knows it. However, what we have in common is a childhood event that rocked our otherwise happy home – in my case, the death of my brother; in my son’s case, his father walking out on us – and both of us struggled to make connections and friendships with our peers, partly because we were/are deeply absorbed in our rather solitary hobbies and interests.

  • October 12, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    This article is me in a nutshell, I have many avoidant traits if not full blown avpd, caused I suspect by angry critical parents that didn’t have time for us kids. I feel very limited emotion, my needs are for warmth , comfort, which I get from a woodburning stove.I suffer serious depression,
    I’m 47 but in my younger years I felt the fear of rejection, self loathing and that I just don’t belong with the human race. Now I think I’ve switched me off completely, I manage very well in my job as a senior nurse, but my personal life consists of as much isolation as I can get.

    • October 13, 2016 at 1:52 am

      Dear Caroline. I’m curious. Your referring to your parents; well you nailed it. And the critical voices!!! Anyway I wonder if your wood stove is augmented by domestic animals. I have allowed my involvement with humans to dwindle to almost nothing. I value a relatively new closeness w my older sister but most people are so manipulative and well… Tricky or unkind or just self absorbed. I have relied on my animals an extraordinary amount. I’m looking forward to getting a wood stove. But my work is to love without losing or giving up myself. How is isolation working for you? I’m so alone it kinda worries me. But I’m not wanting to put up w old patterns.
      Anyway, I’m new at this blog thing but you sounded like me and it makes me wonder what you’re learning about countering childhood neglect.

      Bye. Hope to hear from you.

      • October 13, 2016 at 8:34 am

        Hello Roux, yes I have 2 dogs, who are my companions. I have always loved animals of all kinds,
        On the subject of isolation, I have just drifted into it more and more, I don’t have the energy to pretend I’m something I’m not, and due to a deep rooted belief that I’m no good as I am, it’s the only comfortable solution.
        I was married and I have 2 daughters,grown up.
        Relationships are just a source of pain and discomfort, all my inadequesis come into my awareness, and make me shut down emotionally, I am very aware of my issues but don’t have the motivation to change them, I’m at the stage of,accept what is and get on with it.

      • April 2, 2018 at 7:50 am

        Roux, Again, your response resonates with me..the feeling like your isolation may be too much, and SO importantly, companion animals. There is part of me that keeps striving to get out there in the grand scheme..joining groups, having casual friendships here & there, but almost feel like making a run for it to get back to myself & my dog, and this has always been consistant.

  • October 12, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    It is clear to me that I have all the traits. And in addition to that I have bipolar disorder. I have lived in my current location for 7 years and still have not made any real connections with anyone. My husband is a very social person whereas I’d rather avoid people as much as possible. We are active in our church and I serve behind the scenes. I’m trying to break out of this pattern but then I become anxious and stressed. Not good for bipolar. But I’m trying little by little. My parents didn’t allow me to express negative emotions and therefore didn’t teach me how to deal with them. As a result I withdrew from expressing positive or negative emotions or ask for help with anything except when I absolutely had to. I always felt inferior to everyone else and still struggle with that today.

  • October 13, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    I am relating to everyone’s comment about ‘avoidance’ becoming your ‘style’ or pattern.

    Today I took a long nap after spending the last few days too physically close to a few people. It’s exhausting being around people. I’m 61 and still learning how to become more ‘assertive’ without being offensive-trying to find the balance between saying what you mean and meaning what you say-if you decide to say anything at all.

    If anything I feel much better when I allow plenty of space (recovery time) in between interactions with others. I get energy vampired.

    Melody Beattie’s book ‘codependent no more’ covers many of our unhealthy learned behaviors and what we can do to face and improve them. I keep it near my bedside and read it almost daily———-to help me spiral up and do a healthy kind of avoiding by deleting some relationships simply because they are toxic, harmful or reinforce your insecurities….spewing what feels like toxic poison all over you.

    It’s about trust issues for me for sure…so now I call it…..’taking time to think before you choose to respond’.

    • October 14, 2016 at 3:25 am

      Jane, it’s interesting that you need to nap if you’ve had too much human interactions, I sleep a lot, I have just worked 4 days and I’m exhausted, I nap in the afternoons for about 2 hours on my days off, I find being alone so much more relaxing and definately need to recharge.

    • April 2, 2018 at 7:55 am

      Jane, EXACTLY! I used to make excuses for those much-needed recovery pauses. I’ve extracted the toxic people from my life enough now though, that I can say honestly to the people who know & love me, that I just need that alone time between. It is so comforting to hear others say these things that I’ve thought were just part of ‘my weirdness’.

  • October 25, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Umm… Id say I have all the above characteristics. I was taken off my parents aged 5yrs old & placed into the system where I continuously moved around home to home. I was also abused in every fashion. I believe I’ve only just got through life living through these so called coping mechanisms. Being me seems rather a chore & struggle & not 1 individual has been able to help in any way & yes I’ve sought expert advice but I’m still stuck in this dreary existence. I’m now at the crossroads of accepting that this is me & I’ll just have to muddle through life as best I can. Shouldn’t be too hard considering I now never leave my house. It’s a scary harsh world outside & im staying in my safe zone.

    • April 2, 2018 at 7:59 am

      I hope you reconsider. I make myself go out, even if just occasionally, and I feel like I wish there were more people like you out there.
      Maybe we assume noone is feeling a lot of the same tbings we are..this stream makes me wonder if there aren’t more people struggling than we realize. If we stay inside & silent though, we can never build connection, support, & unity.

  • October 26, 2016 at 4:21 am

    I can relate to all the traits. And avoidance is definitely dominating. What bothers me so much is I was very severely abused emotionally and physically, as were my siblings. It resulted in me having a constant look of anxiety. I sought treatment from a whole host of therapists and psychiatrists. NONE of them addressed childhood neglect. One psychologist actually treated my other siblings as well as myself. My sister had a resilient nature (she became the substitute mother-figure in our crazy home), and managed to survive pretty emotionally-intact. But the psychologist who treated me did not seem to like me at all. She literally told me I should not get married! It might have stung slightly less if she explained how damaged I was – I didn’t even know. I did get married and do have two great children. But never having real treatment for my own abuse, I definitely was not a great mother. But kids can be more forgiving than anyone. I struggled all my life with an inability to make friends. Even after seeing more therapists and doctors, I was basically told to stop living in the past. So I pray that therapists dealing with avoidant personalities and the other traits will LET their patients talk about the abuse. None of min ever did.

    • October 26, 2016 at 11:47 am

      I’ve tried therapy a couple of times, but just couldn’t get anywhere with it, my therapists were both lovely, yours sound very unhelpful. I do wonder if in my case, the need to avoid is stronger than the need to heal, so any attemp at therapy would be a waste of time.
      As for living in the past, I bet we all do, if you’ve had a great life you will live and expect a great life, if on the other hand, it’s been a rocky road, your expectations and outlook would be of more crap to follow, why would you want to do that. Avoidance seems almost genius in such circumstances, but in the end you really just become your own prison walls, with no way out!

    • April 2, 2018 at 8:07 am

      The reality of all of that just sucks. I found long ago that I was my best therapist. Keep researching. There are others that benefit from you sharing your experiences. There’s a very bold line between being someone who references the past in their pathway as they strive forward, and one who uses it for an excuse & good story for every wrong thing in life. Shame on your therapists for not recognizing this.

  • September 13, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Great article. I’m just learning about CEN. I can relate to all the Avoidant Personality traits. I think this was reinforced in my life by school bullying, sexual abuse at home, and an alcoholic parent who commited suicide when I was in my teens. I hope this coping style is further studied. I know the effect it’s had on my life and can imagine there are many others who would benefit as well.

  • September 21, 2017 at 8:13 am

    How do you help someone with avoidant style? There’s a guy I really like but he often avoids meeting up with me, or it takes weeks of planning before he feels confident enough to meet. We usually have a good time and he looks happy and relieved – but then the process starts again. He has told me he just needs time and that people usually give up and move on. I haven’t done that. It’s been three years now, but I feel like progress is at a snail’s pace (though it may well seem quite rapid for him!). He was neglected and traumatised in childhood and says he essentially raised himself (mom has tried to kill herself on numerous occasions and is extremely unhappy). Parents fought all the time. If he senses even the slightest sign of criticism or rejection, he runs (but comes back after a few weeks). He reaches out to me, then flees. Okay, he’s a *lot* better than he used to be, but far from functional. What can I do to accelerate his healing? I don’t pressure him at all, show a lot of acceptance, tease him a lot to relax him (which he says he enjoys) and try to be consistent and reliable in his life (always do what I say I will). He says people always let him down but he is learning to be more accepting of people’s erratic behaviour and is trying not to take it personally. He is Mr Reliable, but can sometimes be, like, an hour or two early for our get-togethers (not sure why). Never late.

    • September 22, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      Although I can’t give you any good tips on how he can get past all that, what I can say is just continue to be there for him for as long as you can and as long as you’re willing. I am somewhat like him and appreciate anyone who can continue to be my friend and be accepting. I am over-sensitive and can’t handle criticism, constructive or otherwise. If it’s criticism in a hateful way, I just tell myself it’s all about them, the criticizer, and not me. Does he know what he is doing and his reactions? If he does, that’s his first step. I’m not a mental health specialist but just my own experiences and what I’m trying for myself. Jonice Webb is great with Childhood Emotional Neglect. Maybe you can get your friend to read up on her blog and her articles. Believe me, when I read up on this, a light went up in my head that I finally have found out why I am the way I am. It’s an eye opener. Good luck to you and your friend.

  • January 22, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    I was diagnosed with AvPD by my therapist recently. And this awareness has been so helpful because I feel less confused. I strongly identify with the feelings of shame, embarrassment, and rejections etc. And those feelings causes me to have feelings of anxiety and depression. I don’t fully believe that I suffered from emotional neglect in my childhood (that sounds so harsh). I know my mother and my father loved me but life happened and they did the best they could. But I did have Adverse Childhood Experiences. I would strongly encourage anyone to check out the ACE Study to see how Adverse Childhood Experiences can effect both our physical and mental health. The link is below. The study also talks about resilience and protective factors. So a couple of things that were traumatic for me in my childhood were witnessing domestic violence between my mother and the father of my sister who was addicted to crack cocaine and being abandoned the first 4 years of my life by my father and for him to come back in my life to only loose him at the age of 11 years old when he died of AIDs. So I could see how those experiences might have contributed to my disorder in the early years. But I would also had good things going on in my childhood. I have always lived in a stable and supportive environment where I felt loved by my immediate family and extended family. Somehow between the good and the bad I agree that I developed these bad coping skills. However, I’m 36 years old now and I agree with everything in this article on what I need to do to overcome it. But it is so hard and scary to try to change. At this point in my life I have come to realization that I will probably be in therapy for the rest of my life to help me dig myself out of this blackhole I created over the years.


  • June 30, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    nailed it! Such insight, I have never seen avoidant personality disorder explained like that. You have explained it exactly the way I needed to hear it explained. I get it now…and I see how it ties into social phobia…and childhood neglect. You are good! Keep it coming. Thankyou. I am def. avoidant personality so pervasive…particularly in social situations… I avoid people and dread being around them, even my own children. People drain me. If I could recover from childhood emotional neglect that I have continued into adulthood…I could fix alot. What is really draining me is not people, but the expectations I put on myself to one down the encounters as if I am inferior. I know I am not inferior, but at the same time I believe I am expected to act inferior while others recieve higher privileges and space. Yes, I don’t get equal space as everyone else does, my mom did this to me…and I continued it when I left home unknowingly

  • March 1, 2019 at 10:56 am

    I was A very quiet child my mother told me l was a disappointment she wanted a boy. She would threaten to go off and leave us. She was not affectionate. Neither my mother or father ever said they loved me. When l first met other children l was only 5yrs old and terrified by how noisy they were. I had problems at school and kept away from the noisy playground.l found socialising as a young person difficult. I am now 62 and can reconise myself as having avoidant personality. I am very isolated l have one friend who cañot be with me much. I don’t socialise l live alone if my friend died tomorrow l would have no one.


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