Avoidant Coping


There is the popular saying that when an Ostrich is threatened, it will bury its head in the sand. While this has proven to be a myth (Ostriches will flop over if stressed) it does bring to light a fascinating way of coping with a problem. In the above example, the Ostrich avoids the stress around it by hiding its head. However, as you and I can clearly see, this does not address or solve the problem.

Avoidant coping is the human equivalent of burying our heads in the sand. Going by a number of different names, it represents a maladaptive way of dealing with stress. Lets take a moment to define avoidant coping and see how it may influence our daily lives.

What Is Avoidant Coping?

Also known as escape coping, and cope and avoid, avoidant coping is a way that people deal with stress. It is maladaptive in that it does not remove the stress, only postponing it instead. With maladaptive coping, we people will do whatever possible not to address the stress in our lives. This can be as simple as not looking at what is wrong. In addition, it can be as complex as reimagining the problem in a non-threatening new form (even if it is still life threatening regardless) or eliminating the stress all together (like quitting a job if it is stressful.) Avoidant coping is considered such when it is done to an unhealthy level that impacts the life of the person.

What Are Some Signs Of Avoidant Coping?

Avoidant Coping occurs when people have an avoidant personality disorder. This is where they draw into themselves and avoid relationships and social activities. More often then not, there is a strong fear of rejection as well as a lack of confidence.

How Can Avoidant Coping Occur?

Individuals who have experienced moderate to severe emotional or physical abuse when children may employ avoidant coping as a means to survive their childhood. While this may have helped keep the child alive when they were young, it quickly emerges as a maladaptive behavior later in life. In addition, events during ones life can create avoidance coping as well. PTSD is a common example of a cause of avoidant coping

What Are Some Treatments

Common treatments involve Cognitive Behavior Therapy as well as Psychoanalytical Therapy. By acknowledging, accepting, and comprehending personal emotions, a person can deal with the ill effects of trauma and move past avoidance coping towards a healthy approach towards life.

-Flow Psychology Editor