Avoidance: ‘the action of keeping away from or not doing something’.
In life, when stressful experiences occur, we use coping strategies to deal with whatever it is we’re dealing with. Some of us may cope in an active way, which means finding solutions that move us past the stress.
On the other hand, we can also choose to cope in a passive way, so escaping and ignoring stressors – something I often do but has been minimized due to therapy.
Avoiding coping is a passive way of handling life stressors.
How do you know if you’re using avoidance coping to deal with your stressor?
If you have an uncomfortable feeling, memory or thought, you are likely to stop doing things that are related to it.
This can be anything from avoiding social events because you feel super anxious and nervous every time you go to a party to avoiding relationships because it reminds you of how your ex-partner did you dirty and betrayed you.
You simply avoid attention
This includes, for example, working overtime when your manager is upset with you, even if it’s not fair or not doing your best because you don’t want others to be upset with you.
You quit if a project or task makes you anxious or you can’t see how you’ll finish it
Again this could be something like avoiding a dance class because you feel silly so you just quit altogether.
Avoiding coping is contributing factor to anxiety and depression, a very strong one at that. Low self-esteem, eating disorders and alcohol abuse can also arise from avoiding coping.
Since avoidance coping is a strategy I’ve used since young, I’ve realised that this strategy sends you in an endless loop. The more you attempt to avoid stress, the more stress is created and you end up even more depressed or anxious than you were before.
A 10-year study who surveyed thousands of middle-aged individuals found that after four years, those who used avoidance coping had more chronic and acute life stressors than those who didn’t.
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