Why People With PTSD Use Emotional Avoidance to Cope

What Is Emotional Avoidance

People may fear expressing or feeling certain emotions because they avoid vulnerability to unfavorable outcomes. They think expressing their feelings makes them more prone to harm or exploitation. People who have gone through painful experiences may avoid feelings that bring back those memories. As a coping strategy to prevent themselves from reliving the suffering brought on by the trauma, they may adopt emotional avoidance behaviors.

Some cultures or societies forbid the expression of difficult emotions, incredibly unpleasant ones, like melancholy or rage. To fit in or uphold a particular image, people could internalize these societal expectations and repress these feelings. Emotional avoidance is a learned behavior that children may pick up from loved ones or carers. People may learn to avoid expressing or acknowledging their feelings if they grew up in a setting where they were disregarded or not valued.

Avoidance Cluster Behavior

Avoidance cluster behavior is a pattern of behavior of individuals who purposely use certain people or situations to avoid cumbersome conflicts and dangerous situations. These individuals tend to avoid painful memories, thoughts, and external reminders about traumatic events about people or places that bring to mind the same hurtful memories. Avoiding such behaviors is an effective effort to withdraw from feelings and emotions that make you feel the past trauma symptoms again.

People with Post Trauma Stress Disorder symptoms find it hard to connect with people; they distance themselves from others and generalized social phobia. They lack enjoyment in the same activities they once used to enjoy.

Such people find it hard to feel positive emotions, connect with their feelings, and feel happiness and love, and they commonly avoid any emotional experience; they lock their feelings inside them due to PTSD and, as a result, feel empty inside. This behavior is called “Emotional Avoidance” or “Avoidant Personality Behaviour.” The key to fulfillment lies in reconnecting with their emotions to face painful emotions to feel love and happiness again.

Emotional Avoidance in PTSD

Recognizing our emotions is crucial because they inform us about ourselves and our world. For example, melancholy may indicate that we must take time for ourselves, while fear may alert us to a potential threat. Even though emotional avoidance could appear beneficial in the short run, over time, the emotions you’re trying to suppress might become more muscular.

Additionally, PTSD’s intense emotional manifestations are difficult to avoid. The longer these feelings are suppressed, the stronger they will become, and it will become harder and harder to control them. As a result, you could feel exhausted and have little energy left over to do things essential to you.

Emotional avoidance is a common reaction in people with PTSD symptoms. They avoid certain people and situations to protect themselves from painful memories that can worsen Post Trauma Stress Disorder symptoms.

Emotional avoidance is a conscious and unconscious effort to suppress distressing emotions associated with a traumatic event. It’s a coping mechanism that these individuals can adopt to avoid overwhelming feelings and memories to avoid past symptoms.

Can avoidant personality disorder be prevented?

A complicated mental health illness, an avoidant personality disorder, is characterized by a pervasive pattern of social restraint, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to unfavorable judgment. It often appears in early adulthood and is thought to be influenced by hereditary and environmental factors.

AvPD cannot be prevented entirely. However, individuals can learn better coping skills and lessen the severity of their symptoms through early intervention and supportive environments. Here are a few tactics that could be useful

Early detection

Early detection may help stop the advancement of AvPD by recognizing and treating potential risk factors in childhood, such as social withdrawal, severe shyness, or anxiety. Early therapy or counseling assistance can be helpful.

Positive parenting and attachment:

Creating a safe and caring environment for children can help them form healthy attachments and have positive emotional development. Children can acquire a positive sense of self-worth and social skills by being encouraged to communicate openly, receive emotional support, and participate in social activities.

Social skills instruction:

Teaching social skills and giving children early opportunities for social engagement might be beneficial. Structured activities, group settings, and instruction in interpersonal and communication skills can all be part of this.

Social support and supportive relationships:

Promoting and sustaining supportive relationships can help reduce the worsening of AvPD symptoms. A robust social support network can offer recognition, comprehension, and a sense of belonging to vulnerable people.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has successfully treated various mental disorders, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The primary goal of CBT for PTSD is to treat the dysfunctional beliefs, feelings, and actions that fuel and sustain the symptoms of PTSD.


The therapist educates the patient on the causes, signs, and symptoms of PTSD. Understanding PTSD’s causes enables sufferers to make sense of their experiences and lessons emotions of guilt or self-blame.

Cognitive restructuring:

This part focuses on locating and disputing unfavorable or misguided ideas about the traumatic event. Individuals can alter their views about themselves and the world by substituting illogical thoughts with more sensible and adaptive ones, which can lessen distressing symptoms.

Exposure Therapy:

CBT for PTSD must include exposure therapy. It entails exposing people to their traumatic experiences, situations, or triggers gradually and methodically in a secure setting. This procedure aids in lowering the degree of dread and anxiety brought on by these stimuli.

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)

According to the American Psychiatric Association, CPT, focusing on cognitive processing therapy (CPT), is a popular treatment for PTSD. It aids people in recognizing and dispelling false assumptions and beliefs about the traumatic incident. CPT often entails writing about the traumatic experience, reviewing ideas about intimacy, power, safety, and trust, and conversing with the therapist about these beliefs.

Skills Instruction:

CBT for PTSD may involve teaching patients coping mechanisms to control symptoms, such as relaxation methods, stress-reduction techniques, and problem-solving approaches. These abilities support people in creating better coping strategies and enhancing their sense of control.

Gradual Re-engagement:

People with PTSD frequently engage in avoidance behaviors that restrict their participation in situations or activities that trigger their traumatic memories. Individuals might reestablish a sense of normalcy and control over their lives by using CBT to progressively confront and re-engage with these activities.

Management and Treatment

People who have survived a traumatic event frequently engage in behaviors that support them in coping with the distressing memories and emotions associated with the experience. Emotional avoidance can hold negative feelings at bay if a person is stressed or unable to cope. Among the emotional avoidance behaviors and avoidant personality disorder symptoms are:

  • self-medication with drugs and alcohol
  • avoiding locations and belongings that make you relive the incident
  • An incapacity to experience love, an inability to remember important details of the terrible event
  • experiencing a loss of interest in your loved ones and friends
  • Avoiding conversations, thoughts, or sensations relating to the traumatic event. Feeling alienated or disassociated from the people you care about
  • avoiding interactions with those who make you think about the incident
  • Having lowered aspirations for the future and being unable to envision a future, marriage, or kids
  • Other folks may engage in tension-relieving activities to manage their PTSD symptoms. Veterans may choose a method that lessens their sense of strain or stress to avoid experiencing intense and painful emotions in response to events that have changed their lives. Among the tension-relieving actions are:
  • binge eating
  • self-harm
  • spending a lot of money uselessly
  • allowing suicide thoughts

Treatment For AvPD


For AVPD and emotional avoidance, psychotherapy is frequently advised, particularly cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT). The primary goal of CBT is to recognize and address unfavorable attitudes, convictions, and avoidance-related behaviors. It aids in the improvement of self-esteem, the development of social skills, and the development of more realistic and adaptive thought processes.

Through gradual exposure to fearful social situations, exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy, can assist people in facing their avoidance behaviors.

Group Therapy:

Group therapy can be helpful for those with AvPD since it offers a secure and encouraging atmosphere to practice social skills, get feedback, and gain understanding from others with comparable difficulties. Individuals who participate in group therapy feel more connected to others, suffer less loneliness, and gain knowledge from one another’s experiences.


Medication may be administered to treat problems, including anxiety, depression, or AVPD-related symptoms. Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and others can relieve stress and enhance mood. It’s crucial to seek the advice of a psychiatrist or other medical specialist for a complete assessment and effective medication management.

Social Skills Training:

Social skills training seeks to enhance communication, assertiveness, and interpersonal skills. Role-playing exercises and constructive criticism from therapists can assist people with AVPD in improving their social skills. Training in social skills can boost one’s self-esteem and improve one’s capacity for navigating social situations.

Mindfulness and Emotional Regulation:

AvPD frequently comes with emotional avoidance. With mindfulness-based therapy, individuals can learn to become aware of and accept their emotions without passing judgment. This can help people tolerate and efficiently manage unpleasant feelings, lessening the impulse to avoid them and regulating emotions.

Supportive Techniques:

In managing AvPD and emotional avoidance, support from family, friends, and support groups can be helpful. Loved ones can offer support, compassion, and a secure setting where people can talk about their emotions and overcome difficulties. Peer assistance and affirmation can be found in support groups and online forums dedicated to AvPD.

Overlapping Other Personality Disorders with AvPD

Some personality disorders that have similar features to AvPD:

Social Anxiety Disorder And AvPD

SAD and AvPD share specific characteristics; it’s important to remember that they are separate illnesses with unique diagnostic requirements and consequences. AvPD encompasses a widespread pattern of avoidance, fear of rejection, and feelings of inadequacy and involves significant interpersonal contact.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) concentrates on specific anxiety relating to social circumstances. An expert in mental health who can evaluate a person’s unique symptoms and circumstances is needed for accurate diagnosis and therapy.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) And AvPD

The complicated and challenging personality illness known as borderline (BPD) is characterized by a pattern of instability in social interactions, one’s self-perception, feelings, and impulsivity. BPD sufferers frequently struggle with severe emotional instability, trouble controlling their emotions, and a fear of abandonment. A constant fear of abandonment, a warped perception of oneself, and a history of intense and unpredictable relationships are typical characteristics of BPD.

Impulsive and self-destructive behaviors, like substance misuse or self-harm, can occur in people with BPD. They might also battle with identity issues and persistent sensations of emptiness. BPD frequently causes interpersonal problems and makes maintaining stable, healthy relationships challenging.

People with BPD may experience severe mood swings, ranging from acute irritability and hostility to abrupt and dramatic changes in mood. An individual’s general functioning and quality of life may be significantly impacted by BPD, which is typically diagnosed in early adulthood.

Dependent Personality Disorder

There are similarities between DPD and Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD), notably in how they affect social interactions and feelings of inadequacy. DPD and AvPD require much external validation, emotional support, and decision-making. Fear of being rejected and criticized by others is a trait shared by both diseases.

People with DPD and AvPD are sensitive to criticism and may take considerable measures to avoid trouble or conflict. People with DPD and AvPD frequently avoid circumstances and connections that can result in rejection or condemnation. They could be reluctant to voice their thoughts or wants, giving the needs and expectations of others priority instead.

DPD and AvPD are separate disorders with unique diagnostic requirements and effects. In contrast to AvPD, which comprises a more extensive pattern of social inhibition, fear of rejection, and feelings of inadequacy, DPD focuses primarily on an all-pervasive psychological reliance on others. An expert in mental health who can evaluate a person’s unique symptoms and circumstances is needed for accurate diagnosis and therapy.


There are several reasons why people could turn to emotional avoidance. One typical reason is the fear of feeling or expressing particular emotions since one can see vulnerability as a sign of weakness or expect unfavorable results. They avoid such emotional experiences because they believe doing so could leave them more vulnerable to abuse or exploitation.

Emotional avoidance is significantly influenced by past experiences as well. People who have previously endured mental disorders or traumatic events tend to avoid emotions that bring back such memories. They attempt to avoid reliving the pain brought on by the traumatic events by using emotional avoidance as a coping mechanism.

Through self-acceptance and increasing awareness of the emotional sensitivity of oneself, one can handle this negative pattern of behavior by repeating positive affirmations. If the situation worsens, consult professional therapists.

What is an example of emotional avoidance?

The act of intentionally or unconsciously avoiding or repressing unpleasant feelings, such as grief, anger, or fear, is called emotional avoidance. To avoid dealing with their emotions, someone can, for instance, put in excessive hours at work or use drugs.

What are the characteristics of emotional avoidance?

Emotional avoidance is characterized by avoiding or repressing unpleasant emotions, whether consciously or unconsciously; utilizing distractions or drugs to dull emotions; finding it difficult to recognize and express emotions; and apprehension about being engulfed or overwhelmed by strong emotions.

How do I know if I have emotional avoidance?

Suppose you frequently avoid or conceal unpleasant emotions, find it difficult to name or express your feelings, turn to distractions or drugs to ease emotional discomfort, or dread being overcome by strong emotions. In that case, you may suffer from emotional avoidance. An assessment can be made more clearly by speaking with a mental health expert.

What is an example of avoidant personality disorder?

An instance of avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) is when a person repeatedly avoids intimate relationships and social situations out of a crippling dread of being rejected or judged. They could refrain from participating in social gatherings, striking up conversations, or expressing their ideas, making them feel alone and inadequate.

What are signs you may have an avoidant personality disorder?

Intense fear of rejection or criticism, aversion to taking chances or trying new things, low self-esteem, self-isolation, and feelings of inadequacy in social situations are all warning signs that you may have an avoidant personality disorder (AvPD). A proper evaluation and diagnosis can be obtained by consulting a mental health expert.

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