Avoidance Behavior When It Comes To Mental Health
We all know what it’s like to avoid something. Avoidance seems to be our go-to response, whether it’s a difficult conversation, an uncomfortable feeling, or a challenging task. And, while this might offer us some short-term relief, it can be quite damaging in the long run.
What is avoidance coping?
Avoidance can be seen as a coping mechanism – something that helps us get through difficult times in our lives. Avoidance can take many forms, but ultimately, it’s about avoiding or numbing our feelings to make them more bearable. This might involve ignoring problems, using substances like alcohol or drugs, procrastinating, or isolating ourselves from others to escape stress.
Why is avoidance coping unhealthy?
Avoidance isn’t only an unhealthy coping mechanism but an ineffective one. It prevents us from dealing with our problems head-on, bypassing the root cause of our stress. While avoidance might offer some relief in the moment, it’s important to remember that it’s only temporary. It might feel better to avoid our problems, but eventually, they will catch up with us. And
when they do, we’ll likely find ourselves in an even worse position than before.
One example of an avoidance-focused coping skill is situational avoidance. Imagine you have to give a presentation at work but have a deep-seated fear of public speaking. You might decide not to go to work that day to avoid this anxiety. While this might offer you some short-term relief, in the long run, it’s likely to make your anxiety worse.
Not only will you have to give the presentation at some point, but you’ll also have to deal with the added stress of avoiding it. And, hypothetically, if you were to never show up to work again, you would never gain the experience you need through exposure to improve your anxiety overall.
Other ways avoidance can make matters worse.
Avoidance can also take the form of denial, refusing to acknowledge that there’s a problem in the first place. We might tell ourselves everything is fine, even when it’s not. This can be harmful because it prevents us from taking the necessary steps to solve our problems.
Avoidance can also manifest as distraction. This is when we try to take our minds off our problems by occupying ourselves with other things. We might watch a funny movie, read a book, do some chores, or go shopping.
While sometimes it helps to hit pause and let a feeling diminish in intensity, distraction is not the same as avoidance. Distraction only works as a healthy coping mechanism because it implies you will return to address your problem when ready.
Finally, avoidance makes it difficult for us to connect with others and maintain healthy relationships.
When we’re constantly avoiding our feelings or hard conversations, we’re unable to be open and honest with the people in our lives. This can lead to resentment, isolation, and loneliness, further aggravating our mental health problems.
When To Seek Help
If you find yourself relying on avoidance as a coping mechanism, it might be time to seek professional help. Therapy is a supportive and non-judgmental space where you can learn skills you need to cope healthily – something that avoidance cannot do. Typically, this process of learning better responses and reactions starts with identifying the stress sources and problems causing unhealthy ones.
In some cases, ketamine therapy may be useful in treating anxiety and depression disorders that cause avoidance behaviors. If you or someone you love is considering ketamine therapy for Depression, PTSD, OCD, or Bipolar Disorder, begin with our 15-minute teleconsult today.