Avoidance, indecisiveness, guilt

Hello!

I was wondering if any of you have experience with avoidance and avoidance-related failures and ways to cope.

I have symptoms of avoidant personality disorder, which is something a bit worse than social anxiety. Its symptoms are overlapping with ADHD, they include extreme rejection sensitivity and fear of being judged by other people to the point of completely avoiding them and having trouble maintaining relationships and lack of social connections. AVPD is one of the mechanisms developed as a result of trauma and genetic predispositions.

My problem is that not only do I avoid social situations, but I always avoid precisely the things that I should be doing. I avoid anything related to my personal success and anything difficult that evokes painful feelings. In the situations where I should take on the responsibility I just get stuck, I am extremely indecisive and I can procrastinate for weeks or even months without progressing. What is worst about it is that I can completely lose the sense of responsibility and accountability, I feel much less clarity in life and I fall into depression. I cannot think clearly and do anything at all. It is a dehumanizing experience and I am really concerned that it could ruin my life and the lives of other people. This sharply contrasts with my open-mindedness, collective values and a strong sense of responsibility for what is happening in the world that I would have under optimal circumstances.

I am not as bad as I was during some times in my life, but I also solely depend on myself and have no external structure. I am in the second year at university and I wanted to find a summer job or volunteer work that I am interested in (Support work), but instead, I have wasted more than a month of time now. Not that I wouldn’t do anything, but I have spent most time procrastinating and don’t feel any appropriate sense of urgency - although I really should, I am living out of my parents’ money and there is inflation and a food crisis. . .

If anyone has any experience to share or any tips, that would be much appreciated. I think I also just needed to confess and I’m hoping it will help me to move on.

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HI,

I am there. Exactly were you are (surely you will do it your way and I will do it my way, but I am avoidant). And I know exactly, what I should do and that I would feel better. It is so painful like being surrounded with invisible walls or weight down with weighted blankets. Yes, it is a mixture out of trauma and genetic (ADHD) predispositions.

I have been wondering, if that could also be that it is that I am avoiding to heal. That I am not allowing /subconsciously) myself to be successful. As you described, I am also open minded and have a strong sense of responsibility and collective values. I am wondering if that actually could be it.
Being responsible for others and helping out… could it also be, that somewhere (keyword inner child?) I still wait for people actually recognizing how much I struggle? Of me wanting to not be successful because I have not experienced people guiding my through things and taking me be the hand, acknowledging my ADHD struggles and helping me. Do I still have to proof to myself that I am rejected concerning this. And than it feels so shameful, that I feel silly asking for help, especially since I know what I should do? I don’t know. Somehow it is also like not knowing what for. In your case it could be something like waiting for the moment in which the parents would come over and say “This can#t be going on like this forever, could you please explain where and how you are broken and what your struggle is?” I don’t know, just a wild wild guess. I am also ashamed of being more successful than others. It is much easier to do things for others and going in the lead than doing it for myself. Especially if it is a simple task or a routine task. Almost as if I roll down a hill and don#t want to pull the break. I can not connect with the situation before the car ran into another car. And than I can be successful cleaning up, put I need the extra struggle which pretents me from moving on, getting out of the place where I am. As is a final bit of the current situation has not been validated.

For me it only helps if I manage to connect it with some exterior motivation, or if I can get myself to spice it up or to have someone over as a body double. Right now I am accepting that my not changing my behavior will get my into problems. It is not acceptance though, it is very very painful.

I think it could have to do with letting go of the past and still learning how to be a caring person to yourself, when you have learned that it is important to take care of a system. The self has lesser value and I can not supply myself with that value. So many mini rememberances of people reminding me that I am not enough.

Sorry my babbling, I do not know if that all connects to one another, but I sure know that it is not a matter of intelligence or discipline, there is some basic need underneath that still wants to be satisfied.

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Thank you!

I think that this actually makes a lot of sense and I may have finally figured out why thanks to your reply. My mother was processing some traumatic experiences when she was pregnant with me. When I was a child I had to be compliant but at the same time effort was not sure to be rewarded first because my parents were often impulsive rather than consistent and second because of my ADD. When I was 6 years old, I spent 2 weeks in hospital where I was literally immobilised and left alone in pain for most of the time. Dissociation and day-dreaming was the best I could do and it was “rewarded” by possibly unprecedented affection but also paired with fear of being left alone. Then when I was bullied later in school, I had already been pre-conditioned to respond passively, and this again gained me affection, protection and recognition from my parents which was not there before.

So I “do not want to heal” and “want to remain the victim” because if there was nothing wrong with me I would not deserve any affection and the pain and fear of being rejected and left alone is there regardless. This contrasts with my tendency to overdo things to prove my worth which of course doesn’t work either because I wear myself out and when the external recognition is not there, I switch back to passivity.

Being rejected certainly makes you more others rather than self oriented, though my parents honour egalitarian values too so there is a healthy cause as well. And being rejected or victimised certainly can increase your empathy towards others and you feel more responsible for other people’s well-being because you imagine yourself in their place. This can be a good thing actually.

The good thing about these mechanisms is that they can almost completely disappear under certain circumstances. There allways has to be something that triggers and fuels them, so you need to replace them with healthier mechanisms. That’s how CBT works actually. Learning how to care for yourself, learning your value and setting up boundaries seems to be crucial for both of us.

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YES!
Similar story. I really like the way you put it in words.
I think I know it for quite some time.
Actually I have found a new therapist, but I managed to maneuver myself into a life situation which is difficult to leave. I actually have experienced the the

I even managed to find myself a partner on the spectrum who is “not really the giving positive feedback” type of guy. Also I have a mother with dementia, a dependent sibling and a child with mayor health issues.
Having worked in theatre I am a professional daydreamer, but that doesn’t help me with my daily routines and in times where the pandemic still is around the arts are a pain.

Also I am really highly sensitive to “vibes” emotions of other people and have learned early one to prioritize those. And I have difficulties letting go of “thoughts and things” once I realized there is a situation/problem to be solved or a dishonesty or something.
I kind of want to finish a thing and “talk” or figure out the reason. This made me a good researcher, but doesn’t give me peace at nights.

Good night

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I’m sorry to hear about this. That sounds like a very difficult situation in itself.

I am occasionally experiencing something similar. For me, it has to do a lot with emotions I think, I just get caught up in something and cannot leave it. Retrospectively it often seems trivial. Often the things I am bothered by are reflecting my moods rather than the situation - It gets worse when I am depressed but I can shut down and be worryingly unconcerned as well which then fuels the avoidance. Breathing exercises and some types of soothing music help me. Awareness of my emotions as well. And accessing a certain broader perspective from which my struggles seem trivial and finding something in them that lightens the situation rather than ruminating on things that I cannot change. I’m saying that this helps me but at the same time, I’ve realised that I am not even doing this at the moment. I’m sure you have your ways of coping. And it seems like most people would feel worried in your situation.

One thing I thought about is that the guilt about being more successful than others you mentioned earlier could be (I’m not saying it is) that you are subconsciously trying to replay some traumatic experience. Perhaps you could see your success as something that differentiates you from others or like you are undeserving of it because you had internalised some of the messages you were receiving in the past (I’m talking partly about what I heard are the consequences of trauma and partly about my own experience, it doesn’t need to apply to you).

I’m glad you found a new therapist and fingers crossed that your situation improves, those around you are well and your child gets better :pray:

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ON AVOIDANCE:

Specifically, I avoid conflict. I also avoid social situations that I don’t have a “role” to play in.

  • I do seem to have many of the listed traits of Avoidant Personality Disorder.
  • (Contrarily, I have mostly the “Anxious Attached” attachment style…but due to all the work I’ve been doing on myself lately, and thanks in part to counseling, I’m edging ever closer towards the Secure Attachment style)

ON INDECISIVENESS:
My ADHD meds seem to alleviate the chronic inability to make decisions which I previously suffered from. It’s still not easy to make snap decisions, and complex situations still take some thought and consideration.

  • It used to take me several minutes to decide on my “usual” on the McDonald’s menu.

Let my put it this way:

  • Since my divorce, I’ve had to make a number of hard decisions regarding work, finances, moving, and child custody. If I’d had to do this without the help of my ADHD meds, I’d still be paralyzed on the decision of “would it be better if I move for the sake of my kids” (to have custody every other week vs. every few months). — But back in January, as soon as the divorce was final, I made that decision in mere moments!

ON GUILT:
I think that we have a tendency to take on more than our share of guilt. I know that I do, and it’s a constant struggle for me to remind myself that I’m only responsible for my own actions and attitudes. I am empathic, and thus hyper-sensitive to the feelings of others, but I have to also remind myself that I’m not responsible for their feelings, only how my own actions and attitudes might contribute to their feelings.

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If someone would ask me, what a good ADHD medication does. It is exactly that. Being able (as a hypersensitive person= to make decisions. Not being completely drawn in to paralysis by all the hundreds and thousands of thoughts, emotions and possibilities of all the people involved in the process.

You are very brave and can be proud of yourself.

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Thank you, JD!

That’s interesting, medication (methylphenidate) seems to do the opposite to me in some sense, it increases anxiety and seems to decrease the positive feelings which in combination with all the other things pulls me down into depression. I’ll have to try the non-stimulant one, I cannot recall the name but it’s the same one you are taking I think.

I think of guilt as an emotion and a natural (automatic) response that is supposed to discourage you from doing something that is bad for you or others and encourage you to do “the right thing” instead. The problem is that feelings of guilt are not objective but are probably to a large extent learned and can be part of some strategy (or how do you call it) that is not or no longer adaptive. That’s I think what explains why some people feel guilty all the time and some almost never - they learned it. In the case of avoidance, guilt is “appropriate” because it harms me and it can harm others. The problem is not the guilt per se but the self-perpetuating circle that it creates together with other mechanisms increasing the avoidance rather than serving its function of pushing you into doing what you essentially want to do.

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I do the same . . .

No matter how infrequently it happens . . . and no matter how much I try to catch myself before I get to that point . . . at those times I “lose it” . . . go off . . . and then can’t get back on . . . the train that has left the station!

:sunglasses:

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I often tend to switch between anxious attachment and avoidance, I would think that it’s quite common. The problem is that “being anxiously attached” can confirm the fear of being rejected and this can lead to further avoidance. You “try” to get all the needed affection from one person instead of spreading it across more people which makes you more strongly, anxiously, attached to one person precisely because you are avoidant.

I’m glad you made the decision and good luck with your new life!

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This is such a nice and interesting conversation. I would love to contribute, but i have to do it later, because my thoughts just come out in a complete mess at the moment, totally all over the place.

OFF TOPIC I have been suffering of allergies lately again, it was gone for a while. But yesterday I had to take cortisones, and asthma inhaler, and I really started panicking. It also felt as if my medication Vyvanse would work as if I had not any ADHD it just felt like I am on drugs. So so weird. Heart racing, feeling ill, stiff neck, difficulties to breathe… so today-when I felt better again- I went to the hospital to check out if I could combine, my asthma medication and my ADHD medication would be compatible. Okay, so far, also had my heart check, so that I can go into the night. The crazy thing is, in hospital telling it I felt so judged again, and also as if taking ADHD medication at all ist a crazy idea.

Also, on top of this, I realized again so much of how I feel has to do with how my relationship works, avoidance triggering ADHD … but enough here now.

I’m on atomoxetine (a generic; the brand name is Strattera). It’s a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (with mild SSRI effects that help keep my anxiety down).

I was on the starter 40mg daily for a year, and I’ve been at 60mg for two months.

It’s not for everyone. Reportedly, it might help you to 70% of people with ADHD, while over 90% can respond well to a stimulant.

Thank you, I know this, I just couldn’t recall it at the moment. I remember you’ve said this when I had been asking about antidepressants.

It seems to me that there is stigma around medication even among mental health professionals and about ADHD to some as well. I often cannot tell whether I’m just being paranoid because I expect that bias or whether there really is judgment, but sometimes it’s explicit. It really depends on who you run into, we all have biases of all sorts. In any case if someone is judging you for taking ADHD medication, that is just their ignorance, it has nothing to do with you. And people often just believe that the medication is harmful and that has nothing to do with you at all.

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Yes you are right. Actually the health professionals were kind of “not saying much” about my ADHD medication, but they also found out, that my condition (slight panic, nausea, accelerated heart beat, difficulties breathing) was actually due to my allergies and that I was not “going crazy”. Strangely I did not recognize the symptoms as being asthma, allergy symptoms and the accelerated heartbeat than being a reaction to the asthma medication, but I completely blamed myself and my ADHD medication, because people keep on telling me I would be getting “speed on prescription”. I felt a mixture of hypochondriac and insane. Now having adjusted my allergy medication, my ADHD medication works again.
I took atomoxitin like @j_d_aengus before and it helped me, but I had loads of side effects. We always see, that it is up to the person.
Because of depression the combination of elvanse/vyvanse and elontril (bupropion hydrochloride) helped me. But much more I think revisiting the topic of avoidance (avoidant personality) helps me at the moment. Last night not being able to sleep I listened to a German book about 101 strategies to cope with rejection and critic and to not avoid conflict. That really helped me to see, where I should feel anger instead of depression and helplessness. You have mentioned your family and the topic of alcohol before. Lately I revisited a book again I bought about twenty-five years ago, written by Janet Woititz, and I realized again, that a lot of my depression and avoidance stems from a co-dependent behavior. I always thought, I understood everything and I am over that “topic” but actually if one person in your family suffers from alcoholism it changes the system for the whole system. Or better not to make that person the quilty one: it is in the system of the whole family. it is in your system, most likely much more than you imagine. different aspects of avoidance and self sabotage are intertwined with the patterns one still carries being grown up and having emancipated from the family of origin.
I for myself am actually thinking about getting in touch with more of this aspect, I even thought about going to a meeting of family members of alcoholics, for I believe a lot of the indecisiveness and guilt has to do with the ambivalent signs one had to read, the “everything is okay” when it wasn’t etc. pp.

I just mention this, because I thought it might be an interesting thought for you as well.
I for myself realized, that I have not learned to be aggressive, successful or egoistic without feeling worried, or being ashamed of managing better than someone else in my family…

okay… enough… you see where this is heading.

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I hope your allergy and ADHD symptoms are both under control now. Even if it would have something to do with the ADHD medication, that is nothing to be ashamed of. I actually did experience a fastened heartbeat, especially from the start and I am on the lowest possible dose. . . and I’m actually not taking it most of the time. The judgment is there because it can potentially be an addictive drug if taken in much larger doses but anything has the potential to be misused. It’s not so much about what you use but about how and why you use it. I am lucky in this respect because the reactions to ADHD that I had from most people were either neutral or “Does it help?”, and it was actually me joking about getting my dose of stimulants.

I have had it prescribed in the past but I haven’t noticed any differences. I am planning to try atomoxetine next but I need to get my health checked first. I think I have also noticed Lion’s Mane having some positive effects, though I never know how to tell if something works.

Thank you for the book recommendations, I will check them out! I have seen a lecture on disorganised attachment style (closely linked to CPTSD): Disorganized (Fearful) Attachment - YouTube. It’s brief and the’s not much about how to heal, but I’m writing an essay related to the assessment of attachment styles and I find it quite helpful in relation to avoidance. When attachment develops in infancy it becomes a secure base for exploration and any uncertainty and obstacles the infant is faced with trigger both fear response and attachment response, the infant returns to his secure base (the primary caregiver) for comfort and is ready to explore and play again when comforted. If the comfort is not sure to be there because the caregiver behaves inconsistently for some reason, the infant develops an insecure attachment. If both your safety and the secure base are under threat, it is extremely threatening. I think that the secure base in adulthood might not necessarily be a relationship, but avoidance is either a “freeze” response or an escape to something that feels more secure. Working on my internal and external environment and developing something that could be called a secure base is something that should decrease the avoidance.

And I have actually not mentioned alcoholism, I mentioned conflict (not physical) and inconsistent parenting with physical punishments. But I can relate to some extent, I think that any disruption to the family environment affects the whole family. In my case conflict was something not talked of and my parents were (and still are) trying to picture their relationship as harmonic, but the tension was there. I have certainly learned to be afraid of conflict and of aggression including my own aggression, anxiety about maintaining harmony and so on. I won’t go into this again because I have already been writing this post for far too long.

What you are writing about attachment sounds very logical and interesting to me.

And my apologies, for getting it wrong with the alcohol. I somehow “saved it” under your name. Now I am curious, if it is an information, I took from another person, or if my mind just ‘added it’ in terms of projection. Actually my parents would not have called it alcoholism either. And you do not need alcohol to be avoidant.