Sensitive or avoidant?

I promised a couple entries ago (link: Personality Styles vs Disorders, part 1) that I would be providing additional information about the differentiation between personality styles and personality disorders with consideration for the idea that personality exists on a continuum. First up: “Sensitive” as a personality style.

A person identifying as sensitive may have some or all of the following traits and individualized needs:

  1. Familiarity: a preference for the “known”; habit, routine and overall predictability are sources of comfort
  2. Concern: a significant care for how others perceive them
  3. Circumspection/carefulness/watchfulness: avoidance of making quick judgments and a tendency toward deliberate and thought-out behavior
  4. Politeness: heightened awareness of demonstrating social restraint and maintaining composure
  5. Role: a need to know what is expected of them (predictability) and how they are intended to relate to others in the context of vocation, leisure and interpersonally
  6. Privacy: hesitation when sharing intimate feelings with others despite having an established connection  (Oldham & Morris 1995)


While the personality traits of a Sensitive individual may not be significantly limiting, they do likely impact the person and his or her relationships, work habits and social behaviors.

On the opposite, or more extreme, end of the “sensitivity spectrum” is Avoidant Personality Disorder.


The chart below features common traits for a person with Sensitive Personality type with corresponding criteria that characterizes Avoidant Personality Disorder. Notice how the Avoidant descriptions on the right side are more intense and potentially pathological versions (ICD-10, 1992).

Sensitive Avoidant
Prefers familiarity Persistent, pervasive feelings of tension and apprehension
Concern for opinion of others Belief he/she is personally unappealing or inferior to others
Carefully avoids making judgments Excessive, often debilitating worry that one will be criticized and rejected in social situations
Politeness/social constraint Frequent avoidance of social encounters for fear of not being accepted or liked
Role (prefers to know what’s expected of them) Intense panic/nervousness when expectations for role or behavior aren’t clear
Prefers keeping feelings and concerns private Avoidance of intimacy and close personal relationships due to fear of rejection



Oldham, J. M., Morris, L. B., & Oldham, J. M. (1995). The new personality self-portrait: Why you think, work, love, and act the way you do. New York: Bantam Books.

The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural disorders: Clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines. (1992). Geneva: World Health Organization.


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