Do you refuse to go out at night with friends because you prefer to stay home and watch TV? It’s okay to do this once in a while, but if you make it a habit, you may be using avoidance behavior. It may be that the crowds make you uncomfortable, so you end up playing with the host’s animals instead of interacting with people.
Avoidance behavior is a coping mechanism for help you with anxiety. It is your way of handling the powerful feelings you have without aggravating the situation. There are many ways to display these behaviors.
Do you have trouble avoiding things?
Have you ever set your phone to “Do not disturb” so you don’t have to deal with people? Another common way to deal with stressors is to go public without a friend or trusted person by your side. Avoidance and social anxiety they are remarkably similar, and there are better ways to handle your distress.
The problem is that your actions are beneficial, but they are not helping you solve the root problem. If you continue to resist dealing with this problem, it will persist in making your life miserable.
Avoidance behavior is not uncommon. It is often seen among those who have PTSD or those with anxiety problems. Some people may avoid others because they struggle with their emotional well-being.
Alice Boyes, Ph.D., is a psychologist who wrote the book The Healthy Mind Toolkit. She indicates in her writings that many people feel unable to deal with the strong feelings they have, so they prefer to avoid them altogether. Staying home instead of mingling with others is one way to avoid dealing with these emotions.
There is no person alive who wants stress overload. Therefore, in any situation that makes you feel such emotions, your mind sees it as a negative experience. In essence, you are protecting yourself by avoiding anything that puts you in danger.
If you have trouble with social anxiety and avoidance behaviors, it’s no wonder you overlook a job that requires public speaking. Stefan Hofmann, Ph.D., puts an interesting twist on this common mental health issue. As a professor at Boston University, he has extensive experience in managing emotions.
He believes that emotions give him the power to handle uncomfortable situations. The problem is that this is not always positive. This false sense of power is a very destructive coping mechanism.
When people use isolation or substances to calm their distress, they are using harmful methods to cope.
Eleven common avoidance behaviors
Perhaps you use avoidance behaviors and don’t even realize what you are doing. Your actions have become so common that they feel like a regular part of your daily life. Here are some standard avoidance methods that people use to ease their distress.
1. Avoid situations where you can be judged
Any situation where you can be judged on your status or capabilities is awkward. You probably avoid social situations for fear of being judged. The problem is that you are afraid to go out in public because you think that everyone is judging you, and this is not the case.
2. Flying under the radar
Do you remember that you were a kid in school and you were terrified that the teacher would call you to answer a question? You may have lowered your head, hidden behind a book, or appear to be totally engaged in the hope that they will pass you by.
Someone who uses avoidance tactics doesn’t want to stand out from the crowd. This individual prefers to fly under the radar so that they do not detect it.
When you avoid situations or feelings, it’s easy to get distracted. How many times have you become engrossed in a new series on Netflix just so your mind can take a break from the real world? Also, many people use video games as an alternate world that doesn’t come with all the pain of reality.
4. Practicing emotional restraints
It is easier to bury your feelings than to deal with them. Has anyone ever accused you of being emotionless or cold about a situation? It’s not that you don’t have emotions, but you have chosen not to deal with them because they are too painful.
5. Constantly procrastinate
Everyone procrastinates a bit, but someone who evasion does it more than most people. They tend to put off dealing with things that they know will increase their stress or anxiety. Whether at work or at social events, they will find a way out.
6. Mental blocks
Since most avoidance is infused with trauma, your brain may not be able to remember certain events. For example, your mind can block things that are so painful to protect you.
You may find that there are specific or entire events that you cannot remember. You are avoiding dealing with these problems because they are too painful.
7. Feeling separate from others
Do you often feel like the stranger? Even when you’re in a crowd, it’s like you don’t exist. You tend to separate from others because you fear hurting yourself. You want to be the person who goes to work, does his job, and goes home.
You don’t like to get involved in the social aspects of things, so many people honestly don’t know anything about you. Throughout history, you will find that many people separated from society and lived in a world of their own.
It’s good to have an optimistic outlook, but someone who is into wishful thinking often denies it. This person ignores the reality of a situation and is delusional about the matter. They don’t have a plan of action to solve the problem; they hope for the best.
9. Alcohol or drug use
Rehab centers across the United States are full of people who used alcohol or drugs to mask pain. Instead of dealing with the problem, they choose self-medicate. The only problem is that the pain only goes away while the effect of the substance is in your system.
When you are sober, you will still have to deal with problems. The use of anesthetic substances is only a temporary solution, however, those with avoidance tendencies use these methods all the time.
Isolation is a fairly common practice for people who are socially uncomfortable. If you avoid phone calls, always say no to a request for a night out, and prefer the comforts of home, then it’s a problem. It’s okay to long for solitude, but you also need a healthy amount of social interaction.
11. Unable to have loving feelings
Have you ever seen someone in their 30s and 40s and they haven’t been in a meaningful relationship yet? The desire to love and be loved is powerful within a person. When someone has a problem with avoidance, they will shut down this part of their being to protect themselves.
They won’t open their hearts or emotions wide enough to feel such things, so they often live life alone where they think they are safest. Fortunately, this can be overcome through counseling so that this person can have the love they deserve.
Six ways to cope with social anxiety
Now you know what avoidance is like, but how do you deal with it? Well, here are some ways that can help you reprogram your brain to stop looking at the world so negatively.
- Push yourself in social situations even when you feel uncomfortable. Exposure therapy is a great way to facilitate your return to society.
- Mingle with people at work. Even if you don’t want to talk to people, you are missing out on valuable relationships.
- Participate in counseling. It would be helpful if you found a counselor who is well versed in managing social anxiety and avoidance tactics. They can help you get to the heart of the problem and find coping mechanisms.
- Don’t procrastinate. Try to do the complicated tasks first so that the rest of the day is a breeze.
- Show some emotion. It’s okay to smile once in a while and it’s okay to cry too. Showing your feelings is a normal part of life.
- Never self-medicate. When you take harmful substances to relieve pain, the need for more increases as the discomfort never goes away. Get treatment for any substance abuse problem right away.
Most people with some form of anxiety will use avoidance behaviors without even realizing it. You have learned skills to cope with your stress and have become a part of who you are today. However, you are missing so many beautiful things, and some people may love and respect you that you are rejecting.
There are ways to combat this avoidance so that you can live your best life. The good news is that you are not alone in this battle. The National Library of Medicine estimated that seven percent of the adult population in this country suffers from social anxiety, and anxiety is one of the most treatable forms of mental illness.
Today can be the beginning of a new life for you if you are only willing to take the first step.