Using avoidance as your main way of coping with traumatic memories can make PTSD symptoms worse and make it harder to move on with your life.
Avoidance is a typical trauma response. It is a coping mechanism that you may use to reduce the adverse effects of trauma, such as distressing thoughts and feelings. It is entirely natural to want to not think about a traumatic event or your emotions related to it.
Avoiding trauma memories or reminders may impede the natural recovery process that would allow for heightened arousal to decrease over time (Foa & Kozak, 1986). Avoidance may also reinforce PTSD symptoms by signaling the individual that the memories are in fact dangerous (Foa & Kozak, 1986).
As mentioned, downplaying trauma can be a coping mechanism. To function in your daily life, you might feel the need to convince yourself that a particular event wasn't that bad. It may seem much more comfortable to ignore your emotions and compartmentalize your negative thoughts.
What Are the Consequences of Avoidance? If you go through a trauma, you may have heard advice like, "just try not to think about it" or "time heals all wounds." But if you go out of your way to avoid thoughts, feelings, and reminders related to a traumatic event, your symptoms may get worse.
This can be protective in the short term, when the emotional pain of recalling the event is still profound. However, in the long term, suppressed memories can create serious emotional health concerns such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative disorders.
Avoidance coping is generally viewed as unhealthy and ineffective because being avoidant doesn't address root causes of stress, and tends to increase stress and anxiety when overused. Most avoidant coping skills are efforts to find instant relief from stress, even when it makes things worse in the long run.
After a traumatic experience, the emotional toll may be so heavy that people may avoid anything that might remind them of what happened. Some people's efforts to block residual feelings of trauma may look like adapting avoidance behavior to avoid feelings of pain, also called trauma blocking.
When trauma and chronic stress become overwhelming, our nervous system tends to move into a shutdown state. Counsellors often refer to it as dissociation, a common response to traumatic events.
Silence intensifies the impact of trauma, and trauma that goes unspoken, un-witnessed, and unclaimed too often “outs itself” as more violence to self or others.
Emotional avoidance is a common reaction to trauma. In fact, emotional avoidance is part of the avoidance cluster of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, serving as a way for people with PTSD to escape painful or difficult emotions.
For most people, talking to yourself is a normal behavior that is not a symptom of a mental health condition. Self-talk may have some benefits, especially in improving performance in visual search tasks. It can also aid understanding in longer tasks requiring following instructions.
Usually, signs of dissociation can be as subtle as unexpected lapses in attention, momentary avoidance of eye contact with no memory, staring into space for several moments while appearing to be in a daze, or repeated episodes of short-lived spells of apparent fainting.
It won't rid you of PTSD and your fears, but let your tears flow and you'll maybe feel a little better afterwards. 'Crying for long periods of time releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, otherwise known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can help ease both physical and emotional pain.
Adults may display sleep problems, increased agitation, hypervigilance, isolation or withdrawal, and increased use of alcohol or drugs. Older adults may exhibit increased withdrawal and isolation, reluctance to leave home, worsening of chronic illnesses, confusion, depression, and fear (DeWolfe & Nordboe, 2000b).
Dissociative amnesia occurs when a person blocks out certain events, often associated with stress or trauma, leaving the person unable to remember important personal information. Appointments 866.588.2264.
After practicing TRE® people often use the words 'grounded', 'relaxed' and 'calmer' to describe their feelings. After a period of several months people have reported relief from illnesses such as Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Eczema and IBS.
The Link Between Avoidance Coping and Anxiety
When people use this strategy to consciously or unconsciously avoid something that causes them anxiety, they usually create a situation where they need to face it more. This outcome can be avoided through active coping but it can be difficult to do at first.
Excessive drug or alcohol use.
Drug and alcohol use can be a slippery slope. Stimulants and depressants may help to numb feelings, pain and subside those negative thoughts that are actively being avoided, but excessive use can lead to severe health complications, addiction, overdose and death.
Researchers suggest that there are early childhood experiences that contribute to avoidant behaviors and personality disorders. These are not necessarily causes but may increase the risk of developing AVPD. A major factor in early childhood that may shape personality and lead to AVPD is parental interaction.
A 2021 study conducted in Italy during the first wave of lockdowns showed that when we regulate or ignore our emotions, we can experience short-term mental and physical reactions as well. “Suppressing your emotions, whether it's anger, sadness, grief or frustration, can lead to physical stress on your body.
The symptoms of unresolved trauma may include, among many others, addictive behaviors, an inability to deal with conflict, anxiety, confusion, depression or an innate belief that we have no value.
Eye contact is broken, the conversation comes to an abrupt halt, and clients can look frightened, “spacey,” or emotionally shut down. Clients often report feeling disconnected from the environment as well as their body sensations and can no longer accurately gauge the passage of time.