Avoidance Habits: What It Is and How to Overcome It


Are you utilizing avoidance conduct?

Anybody who’s ever reluctantly attended a celebration solely to spend the night time enjoying with the host’s canine is aware of a factor about avoidance. Not comfy in crowds? A sport of fetch and plenty of “Who’s a very good boy?” can seem to be a very good various.

Avoidance conduct is a manner to handle stress by avoiding tough ideas or emotions, and it will probably take loads of kinds. Possibly you buried your self in Netflix binges to escape the hectic actuality of life throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Or maybe you may’t be in public with out a buddy to make you’re feeling comfy.

Whereas avoidance conduct serves a goal, it doesn’t deal with the basis problem. And that’s a problem when it comes to your psychological well being. Because the saying goes, “in the event you resist, it is going to persist.”

Right here’s a rundown on avoidance conduct and how to overcome it, in accordance to consultants.

What is avoidance conduct?

In case you’re avoiding hectic or socially tough conditions by way of distractions or by staying away utterly, you’re practising avoidance conduct, in accordance to the American Psychological Affiliation (APA).

Keep in mind the nervousness you averted by enjoying with a pup throughout a celebration? That may take a couple of completely different kinds, relying on the kind of avoidance.

You possibly can partially keep away from uncomfortable social conditions by hanging with the canine or sitting within the nook the entire time. Otherwise you would possibly select to escape and stroll out in the course of the occasion. Otherwise you keep away from gatherings totally.

Who’s susceptible to avoidance conduct?

Folks with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety are particularly possible to use avoidance to dodge triggers or doubtlessly dangerous environments. Others could observe the conduct as a result of they battle with their feelings normally.

“In case you’re comfy with sturdy emotions, then you definitely’ll have much less want to keep away from [them],” says Alice Boyes, PhD, a former scientific psychologist and writer of The Anxiety Toolkit.

The attract of avoidance coping

No one likes stress. In a manner, it is sensible that individuals would keep away from conditions they understand as unfavourable—it’s self-protective.

If public talking offers you panic attacks, it’s no marvel you would possibly go away a job that all of a sudden asks you to give shows.

However avoidance goes past consolation, says Stefan Hofmann, PhD, a College of Boston psychology professor and director of the Psychotherapy and Emotion Analysis Laboratory.

“Avoidance [can] offer you energy in conditions,” he says, however that’s not all the time a very good factor. This energy gives a false sense of management and can provide manner to harmful coping mechanisms, equivalent to isolation and even substance abuse.

The pitfalls of avoidance conduct

Preventing stress and gaining management feels like an affordable manner to stay calm, however it may do extra hurt than good. In truth, consultants say that whereas avoidance conduct could make you’re feeling good within the second, it’s dangerous to your long-term psychological well being.

“[Avoidance] places you in a vicious cycle,” Hofmann says. Avoiding issues isn’t fixing them, and it will probably go away you with nagging anxiety about what you’re not confronting. “Your stress about no matter you’re avoiding will increase,” Boyes says.

Other than reinforcing your nervousness, this coping mechanism can have some detrimental results in your life. It could lead you to keep away from going through your funds or duties. Plus you may miss out on vital alternatives like social occasions, connections, and job presents.

The difficulty may even affect these round you, says Boyes. Avoiding tough conversations with an individual, for instance, or continuously utilizing them for emotional help in uncomfortable settings could cause rigidity, main to strained relationships.

Lonely woman sitting in room

Jasmin Merdan/Getty Pictures

Indicators of avoidance conduct

Folks have a tendency to fall into routines of turning down invites or laying aside conferences with buddies and chalk it up to “that is simply how I take care of issues,” says Hoffman.

In accordance to the APA, avoidance coping methods could embody, escapism, wishful pondering, self-isolation, undue emotional restraint, and fixed alcohol or drug utilization.


All of us flip to books, films, tv, video video games, or perhaps a nice daydreaming session for a break. However when these escapes take priority over socializing with buddies, interacting with family members, and even work, the conduct qualifies as avoidance.

Wishful pondering

Folks counting on wishful pondering usually interpret a reality or actuality in accordance to what they need or want it to be.

Feels like optimism, doesn’t it? The distinction is that constructive pondering permits you to acknowledge information, adapt, and change conduct for one of the best outcomes. You see a problem, you propose to meet it with a sound technique, and then you definitely work to obtain outcomes.

Wishful thinkers could ignore information and give in to delusion. There’s no planning or motion, solely passively hoping that issues will work out for one of the best.

Revisit previous conditions the place you felt positively in regards to the scenario however it didn’t pan out. Be truthful and recall whether or not you have been working towards a desired consequence or being passive.


As a manner to keep away from uncomfortable emotions, some individuals isolate themselves—once more, turning down social alternatives.

Whereas it’s OK to take time away from social occasions so as to recharge and observe self-care, in the event you frequently keep away from social interplay, it’s possible you’ll be self-isolating as a manner to keep away from anxieties or fears.

Burying your feelings

Have you ever ever been labeled impassive or chilly in conditions? It’s possible you’ll be practising emotional restraint to keep away from coping with your emotions.

The issue is that your feelings will discover a manner out in lower than wholesome methods—you possibly can expertise sudden outbursts or feeling excessive uneasiness from minor issues.

Fixed alcohol or drug utilization

There’s nothing incorrect with a drink or two, however you shouldn’t be depending on it to numb your self or drown out a way of actuality.

To find out if in case you have an issue, contemplate whether or not you acknowledge these indicators of addiction in your self:

  • You partake in substances to overlook one thing in life or the previous.
  • You have got bother with sleeping, managing stress, or feeling down with out it.
  • You possibly can’t keep relationships or hobbies due to habits.
  • You constantly go over private limits.
  • You lengthy for the drug or really feel sturdy urges.
  • You act in contrast to your self for entry to it.
  • You end up in harmful conditions or experiencing ideas of suicide.

(In case you or somebody you already know has had ideas of self-harm or suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), which gives 24/7, free, confidential help for individuals in misery.)

Procrastination vs. avoidance

Procrastination is a kind of avoidance that individuals use to evade or delay issues they know they need to do, in accordance to Hofmann.

And it seems that procrastination could be constructive, in accordance to Boyes. By giving individuals time to course of, procrastinating permits for creativity, decreases the prospect of being overwhelmed, and reduces stress.

The distinction between unhealthy avoidance coping and wholesome procrastination is an consciousness of a problem or job and a capability to face it. Avoidance, however, is a broader time period for refusing to face a problem or job.

Overcoming avoidance conduct

“Surf” feelings

Nobody desires to drown of their emotions. Studying to journey them, nevertheless, is essential.

“Consider sturdy emotions like massive, sturdy waves,” says Boyes. “Think about browsing them reasonably than combating them.”

Attempt acknowledging your feelings by writing them down or giving your self time to sit with them. Determine how massive the “wave” is, asking your self, “What am I feeling probably the most?”

Then ask, “Can I let these emotions go?” The reply to the query could shock you and permit the wave to move.

Discover stress relievers

Doing stress-relieving practices earlier than occasions helps you strategy conditions with calmness. Each consultants stress the significance of discovering sustainable habits (like yoga) reasonably than impulsive ones. (“Not skydiving,” says Boyes.)

Attempt easy practices, like meditating or happening a stroll, to discover a sense of pleasure, says Hoffman.

Don’t permit these actions to be a slippery slope into avoidance. Consider these duties as prep work reasonably than distractions. Use them as a manner to decompress earlier than coming into a tough scenario as a result of it is going to permit you to strategy no matter is stressing you out with a way of ease.

Be versatile

“Break routine patterns, develop into versatile, attempt issues out, and see what works,” says Hofmann.

Life presents modifications and challenges, and your methods of coping can evolve. Discovering wholesome coping mechanisms can take days or years, so keep in mind to be affected person and adapt.

Be open to change; new habits that work in the mean time could also be ineffective later.

Construct tolerance

Use your understanding of private stressors to strengthen your tolerance.

“Get plenty of observe doing stuff you discover anxiety-provoking,” says Boyes. “Begin with issues which can be mildly anxiety-provoking, and work steadily.”

For one thing like social anxiety, begin by going someplace acquainted, or attending gatherings with individuals you already know, then slowly enterprise out. Duties could appear small, however they will lead to massive modifications in overcoming trauma-rooted fears.

Suppose constructive

Worst-case eventualities exist solely in our heads, but they have an inclination to affect our actions.

“Folks stick to habits to stop no matter horrible consequence they envision,” Hofmann says. “If this horrible consequence doesn’t occur, you probably did all of those weird issues for nothing.”

Embrace the concept that hypothetical conditions are simply that—hypothetical. There’s an opportunity what you’re making an attempt to keep away from could not occur in any respect.

Do not forget that dangerous experiences could be good

If one thing does go incorrect, develop from it.

“The extra you keep away from, the much less observe you get at feeling challenged,” says Boyes. ” Folks underestimate how vital it’s to study abilities for managing anxiety-provoking duties or conversations.”

The expertise of working by way of real-life eventualities helps higher put together you for future encounters.

Search skilled assist

Though experiences are individualistic, in the event you really feel your anxiety-induced avoidance prevents you from residing the way in which you need to dwell, Hofmann suggests seeking a therapist, who will help you’re employed by way of it.


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