Featured image for “Avoidance Behavior”

Avoidance Behavior


April 23, 2024

When was the last time you avoided something, and why? I’m not talking about avoiding hitting a deer on the road. What I am talking about is knowing and not wanting to deal with it.

Avoidance behavior is any action used to escape or distract from difficult thoughts, feelings or situations (stressors). Notice that does not say unwanted thoughts or feelings. These are not intrusive thoughts. These are things that we know to be true, or we think are true, but we would rather not deal with it or address it.

So the behavior of avoiding is not being authentic, truthful, or filled with character.

Why People Avoid

Some people avoid difficult situations for emotional reasons, like fear or guilt or shame. They might be afraid they are going to get caught, or in trouble, or losing someone. Or their feelings of guilt or shame might move them to simply get away from that subject.

Then again, someone might avoid because they’re afraid the truth is going to hurt. Sometimes we don’t like the truth, or perhaps we just don’t want to face it. 

Then there are those who avoid just because whatever it is doesn’t feel good, or comfortable. We’re talking about feelings here. They don’t like how they might feel if they were to not avoid the uncomfortable thought, feeling or situation. 

The principle at work here is avoiding stress. Whatever the stressor is, it is to be avoided in the belief that avoiding will create less stress. However that is not always the case.

Avoidance as Coping

Coping mechanisms are tools we use to help us deal with uncomfortableness. Sometimes, people use avoidance as a way of coping, especially in the form of distraction. This could be in regards to hurts or the past, pain, or mental health issues.

This is where it gets tricky, because it works. But at what cost, especially in relationships?

Using avoidance as coping magnifies the stress underlying the avoidance. The avoidance creates more ongoing stress because the problem was not resolved. Resolving the problem would minimize or eliminate that stress going forward.

Tolerating The Uncomfortable

Anxiety and stress are inevitable. Learning to tolerate the uncomfortable is the key. Whether that is tolerating uncomfortable feelings, or thoughts or situations, your goal should be to get active in them.

Talk about the situation with the other person. Don’t be afraid of your feelings, although you may need to learn how to communicate them appropriately.

Self-awareness helps a lot here. You may need to learn why exactly you feel the way you do or think the way you do. Avoiding stressors will only get you so far.

If you would like help with avoidance behaviors, give us a call. Our therapists are ready to assist you.

Todd Call
Latest posts by Todd Call (see all)