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Compr Psychiatry. 2012 Aug;53(6):813-21. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2011.10.007. Epub 2011 Dec 5.

Avoidant personality problems--their association with somatic and mental health, lifestyle, and social network. A community-based study.

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Department of Psychiatry, Innlandet Hospital Trust, N-2318 Hamar, Norway.



The aim of the study was to explore the associations between the presence of avoidant personality problems (APPs) and 5 areas of impairment: demography, somatic issues, mental health, lifestyle, and social issues.


Avoidant personality problem was defined by confirmation of the 2 avoidant personality disorder items of the Iowa Personality Disorder Screen and and the Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) short version (MINI-SPIN) screening assessment for generalized social anxiety disorder sum score of 6 or more. The questionnaires were administered in a Norwegian population survey (the Oslo Health Study-HUBRO). Cases consisted of 280 individuals with APP and 5 randomly selected controls without APP (n = 1400).


The APP group more frequently reported living alone, lower level of education, and lower income than controls. Poor self-rated health, presence of somatic disease, muscular pain, frequent use of analgesics, and visits at a general practitioner were significantly more common in the APP group than among controls. The APP group had significantly higher proportion of caseness of mental distress, low general self-efficacy, and insomnia, and this result held up in multivariate analyses. The APP group showed statistically significant higher proportions of physical inactivity, obesity, daily smoking, and alcohol problems compared with controls. As for social impairment, a significantly higher proportion of the APP group reported "not having enough good friends," "high powerlessness," and low community activism, and the 2 former variables held up in multivariate analyses.


In this population-based study, we found that high levels of APP, defined closely to avoidant personality disorder, were significantly associated with demographic, somatic, and mental impairment; low general self-efficacy; and insomnia affecting work ability. In addition, APP showed associations with negative lifestyle, alcohol problems, and social impairment reporting lack of good friends and lack of empowerment. Avoidant personality problem is associated with clinically significant impairment in several areas, which underlines the importance of recognizing these problems in primary health care.

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