Diagnostic Criteria

A. Persistent and excessive shrinking from contact with strangers.

B. Desire for affection and acceptance, and generally warm and satisfying relations with family members and other familiar figures.

C. Avoidant behavior sufficiently severe to interfere with social functioning in peer relationships.

D. Age at least 2 1/2. If 18 or older, does not meet the criteria for Avoidant Personality Disorder.

E. Duration of the disturbance of at least six months.

Differential Diagnosis

Social reticence

Socially reticent children are slow to warm up to strangers, but after a short time can respond, and suffer no impairment in peer interaction.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

In Separation Anxiety Disorder, the anxiety is due to separation from the home or major attachment figures rather than to contact with strangers per se.

Overanxious Disorder

In Overanxious Disorder, anxiety is not limited to, or focused on, contact with strangers.

Schizoid Disorder of Childhood or Adolescence

In Schizoid Disorder of Childhood or Adolescence there is also discomfort in social situations, but there is little desire for social involvement, whereas in Avoidant Disorder of Childhood or Adolescence there is a clear desire for affection and acceptance.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder, rather than Avoidant Disorder of Childhood or Adolescence, should be diagnosed only if the behavioral pattern has existed for many years and the individual is at least 18 years old.

Adjustment Disorder

In Adjustment Disorder with Withdrawal, the behavioral pattern of withdrawal is clearly related to a recent psychosocial stressor.


See Anxiety Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

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