What is Avoidance Behavior?

What is Avoidance Behavior?

You might have a lot on your plate and ten other tasks to accomplish during a day. But do you ever feel like you want to do nothing? You might postpone or even avoid taking decisions, but do you ever wonder why you do so? Let’s find out!


What is Avoidance Behavior?

To begin with, avoidance behavior is a maladaptive pattern of behavior. Avoidance behavior psychology states that it is a propensity to put off making a decision or look for a simple solution that requires no activity or change in order to avoid it.


Avoidance Behavior and Childhood

The roots of avoidant behavior can be traced back to childhood. Children having an anxious avoidant pattern of attachment with their primary caregivers tend to have avoidant attachment style of behavior as adults.

Okay, so what does this mean?

An Anxious Avoidant Pattern of Attachment presupposes that children maintain proximity from their caregivers, do not really disclose much information to them and try to deal with distress at their own level. Although they struggle with anxiety and sadness, they do so alone and disregard that these emotions need to be dealt with. This in turn might lead the children to NOT seek for help, even when required. This is also an example of severe avoidance behavior.

Furthermore, as adults, these people develop avoidant attachment behaviors. They start showing avoidance behavior in relationships. This means that they have a hard time forming, deep, meaningful relationships with their partner or even peers. It includes social avoidance behavior where individuals prefer to get all the work done on their own and tend to refuse help even in difficult situations. This style of behavior manifests in other ways too, such as avoiding physical touch, eye contact, meeting people, being a part of conversations and so on.

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Why do you engage in Avoidance Behavior?

Here are certain factors that encourage avoidance behavior. These are not all but a few widely recognized factors. The terms might seem like huge words at first glance, but they are in fact, very easy to understand.

  • Cost–Benefit Calculations: This is a calculation of costs (time, money, and energy) incurred with the amount of benefits it would have. If an individual doesn’t feel/think that the benefits are worth the cost, then they tend to engage in avoidance behavior.
  • Anticipated Negative Emotions and Regret: A tendency to think that a particular action or event might have adverse effects even before facing the event would lead the individual to avoid the situation altogether. People think that since they would end up regretting, there’s no point of even trying.
  • Selection Difficulty: When people face difficulty with making a choice, they might choose not to make a choice and engage in avoidance behavior.
  • Counterfactual Thinking: As the name suggests, it’s “a counter to the facts”. Despite our best attempts to avoid uncomfortable situations, we occasionally end up in them. We use counterfactual thinking as a part of our approach and avoidance behavior to avoid circumstances that might be unpleasant to us, either in the present or future.

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Types of Avoidance Behavior

There are 5 types of Avoidance Behaviors that people engage in. These are:

  1. Situational: Avoiding situations that make you feel triggered by other people, places, things, or activities is referred to as situational avoidance. A classic symptom of this is if a person experiences PTSD, they would engage in this type of avoidance.
  2. Cognitive: Cognitive avoidance is the deliberate effort to direct your attention away from upsetting ideas or memories. An example of this would be a person engaging in self-talk and telling themselves not to think about such things.
  3. Protective: Protective avoidance is the term for behaviors in your external surroundings that make you feel more secure within. An example of this is OCD Avoidance behaviors where a person obsessed with and feels a compulsion to clean, count, check, observe and look after their stuff.
  4. Somatic: Somatic avoidance is the practice of avoiding situations that cause a physical reaction resembling anxiety and stress. An example of this would include people avoiding thrilling movies or amusement-park rides.
  5. Substitution: Substitution avoidance involves replacing undesirable feelings with another feeling or action that seem more acceptable to you. An example of this can include replacing grief or sadness with anger or alcohol.

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Overcoming Avoidance Behavior

There are various ways in which one can overcome Avoidance Behaviors. Firstly, seeking professional help is the best way to overcome such behaviors.

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Taking active efforts to identify such behaviors is necessary in order to proceed to the next step which is developing Coping Skills. This can be accomplished through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Secondly, individuals can implement stress management techniques. Other than this, people can also try mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises or even engage in journaling, Opening up to a close friend and so on.

“Only when you face your fears, you can overcome them. The more you avoid and run away from them, the more they would run behind you to haunt you.”

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