There’s a difference between being shy and having an avoidant personality disorder. People with avoidant symptoms have such low self esteem and self worth that what they actually fear – ridicule and humiliation – is exactly what seems to pile on their heads.
Avoidant personalities will seem to visibly flinch at attention. For this reason, they avoid social interaction to the extreme. While they inwardly fantasize about having a circle of approving friends around them, they are rarely unable to establish relationships and will seek to avoid school, work or even activities such as shopping in a mall to avoid human interaction.
Normally, avoidants are developed. They may have experienced an extended history of being bullied or having suffered emotional neglect in childhood. While most children experience rejection from peers at some level in elementary or junior high, avoidants take it to to heart at a deeper level, rarely recovering.
Should avoidants establish a relationship, they are so lacking in self confidence that they are unlikely to raise any issue, thus allowing for domination and even bullying long into adulthood.
If the avoidant becomes aware of the fact that he or she has this disorder and is willing to receive proper treatment, this person has a very good chance of making significant improvement and changing those mental and behavioral patterns. To one degree or another, this is true of all personality disorders. The key factors are acknowledgement of the condition and willingness to work on it. If the avoidant doesn’t think he or she has a problem, obviously nothing will change.