Avoidance behavior can cause distress and maintain anxiety. Avoidance can, in other words, lead to both development of psychological distress and maintain normal crisis reactions, such as fear and anxiety.
Why is it important to prevent avoidance?
- Avoidance behaviors tend to grow. More and more places and situations are avoided. First concerts, then cinema, then malls. Eventually going to the local grocery store may become difficult.
- To be able to continue life after the incident, social connections need to be maintained. Avoidance behavior can prevent this, as those affected start isolating themselves to avoid being reminded of the incident.
- Getting started with day-to-day activities is an important step in returning to daily life after a crisis. However, everyday activities become increasingly difficult when places and situations are being avoided.
How can avoidance be prevented?
- Help the affected person to visualize the place or situation that they are avoiding. Discuss what may become uncomfortable and possible solutions to this discomfort. Use relaxation techniques during the visualization as needed.
- Create a stepwise plan for exposure where the first step is the least uncomfortable and the last step is the place or situation that is feared the most. Every step should be manageable, even if it leads to some discomfort.
- The affected person should be prepared beforehand and receive follow-up both during and after the exposure. A family member or a professional can give support during the exposure exercises. The preparation and evaluation should be performed by professionals.
- You can improve motivation by preparing beforehand and rewarding afterwards.