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Avoidant Personality: Why Your Spouse with ASD Can’t Handle Constructive Criticism

If your partner on the autism spectrum is offended whenever you wage a complaint or offer some advice, then he or she may have avoidant personality traits. Avoidant personality is characterized by a pattern of feelings of inadequacy and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation. 
 
The individual is fearful of disapproval and social rejection. In many cases, this is the result of peer-rejection that occurred during childhood. Avoidant personality becomes a major component of this person’s overall character - and a central theme in how he or she relates to others.

ASD individuals with avoidant personality tend exhibit the following traits:

  • Avoids social situation and activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
  • Drinks before social situations in order to soothe nerves
  • Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
  • Has very low self-esteem due to a long history of making “social mistakes” (usually unintentionally)
  • Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing
  • Tends to be easily offended by even "neutral" comments from others (especially his/her spouse)
  • Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
  • Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  • Stays quiet or hides in the background in order to escape notice and avoid chit chat
  • Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  • Has intense worry before an upcoming social event (e.g., a large family gathering)


For people on the autism spectrum with avoidant personality, evaluating for the presence of psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression, drug/alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders) is extremely important. Also, because “anxiety tendencies” are often found in other family members, a family psychiatric history is beneficial. 

 

A cycle for the individual with avoidant tendencies looks like this:

==> low social/emotional intelligence due to ASD ==> results in poor social skills ==> results in social mistakes/failures ==> results in teasing, rejection, ridicule by others ==> results in avoiding social situations as much as possible

 

Quick tips for people with ASD & Avoidant Personality—

•    Work on your communication skills. Good relationships depend on clear, emotionally-intelligent communication. If you find that you have trouble connecting to others, learning the basic skills of emotional competency can help.
 

•    Take a social skills class or an assertiveness training class. These classes may be offered at your nearest community college.
 

•    Learn how to control the physical symptoms of social anxiety through relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.
 

•    Get adequate sleep. When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more vulnerable to anxiety. Being well rested will help you stay calm in social situations.
 

•    Face the social situations you fear in a gradual, systematic way, rather than avoiding them.
 

•    Challenge negative, unhelpful thoughts that trigger and fuel social anxiety, replacing them with more balanced views.

 

More resources:

 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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