Avoidant personality disorder and social phobia: Does mindreading make the difference?
Abstract Objective Avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) is closely related to and partially overlaps with social phobia (SP). There is an ongoing debate as to whether AvPD and SP can be classified as separate and distinct disorders or whether these diagnoses rather reflect different degrees of severity of social anxiety. The hypothesis of this study is that in patients with AvPD and in those with AvPD and comorbid SP both interpersonal functioning and metacognitive abilities (the ability to understand mental states) are more severely impaired than they are in patients with SP only. We also hypothesise that the interpersonal and metacognitive functioning of these patients (both AvPD and AvPD+SP) is comparable to that of patients with other PD diagnoses. Methods To test this hypothesis, we compared four groups (22 patients with SP, 32 patients with AvPD, 43 patients with both AvPD and SP and 50 patients with other personality disorders without SP and AvPD criteria) on metacognitive abilities, interpersonal functioning and global symptomatic distress. Results Metacognitive ability showed significant variation among the four groups, with the lowest score observed in the AvPD group. As far as the interpersonal functioning is concerned, the lack of sociability was more severe in the AvPD group compared with the SP group. These differences were maintained even after controlling for global symptomatic distress. Conclusion Results are in line with the alternative model of PD, proposed in the DSM-5, as dysfunction of the self and relationships. They suggest that specific impairments in critical areas of self domains and interpersonal domains of personality functioning may serve as markers distinguishing AvPD from SP.
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