Even people who have a basic understanding of PTSD recognize that it’s often made worse by triggers. No matter what you experienced, flashbacks and anxiety can often occur when you’re in specific situations or experience certain things.
Obviously, no one who has been through a traumatic event wants to relive those experiences. People who deal with PTSD also don’t want their disorder to define their lives.
That’s why some turn toward avoidance behavior as a coping strategy. As you might expect, this behavior occurs when someone is trying to limit or avoid any interaction with something that might trigger them.
In theory, it makes sense. By avoiding triggers and external reminders, the symptoms of PTSD might not be as severe.
Unfortunately, it’s not a sustainable coping strategy. In fact, it could do more harm than good.
So, what’s the problem with avoidance behavior? If you’re struggling with PTSD, how can you reduce your avoidance and find healthier ways to cope?
Why Avoidance Behavior Isn’t Helpful
When you’re dealing with any type of anxiety, depression, or other mental health condition, one of the best things you can do is to get to the “root” of the problem.
There are coping mechanisms you can use. There are ways to manage your symptoms. But, those are often just surface methods that might help you in the moment without treating the long-term issue.
When you practice avoidance behavior, you might find that it actually works for a while. It’s not a realistic approach to truly combatting PTSD. It’s understandable that you would want to limit your exposure to certain triggers. But you’re not going to be able to avoid certain people, places, or things forever.
In the long run, your avoidance behaviors can become more severe. They might even end up making you more fearful of everyday things, just because you’re so worried about encountering a trigger. Not only will that make it harder to recover from PTSD, but it can severely impact the quality of your life.
How Can You Reduce Avoidance Behavior?
The first step in reducing avoidance behavior is understanding it. It’s not easy to identify it when you feel you’re just trying to limit triggers. But if you’re going to extremes to “stay away” from stressful things, chances are you’re not coping as well as you think.
You can take control of your life again and break down the hold of avoidance with a few tips and techniques.
First, monitor yourself in different situations. Take note of the things that make you feel uncomfortable and give them a “rating”, 1-10. At the end of just one week, you’ll have a list of things that are seriously triggering and things that aren’t as bad as you may have originally thought.
Over time, with continued monitoring, you’ll see that you don’t have to avoid the world to feel safe and secure. You might find that your “high” numbers are few and far between, and you may even end up getting more comfortable with things the more you’re exposed to them.
You can make this process even easier by seeing a therapist along the way. Therapy is designed to help you get to the root of your PTSD. It’s not easy to peel back those layers. But it’s the best way to work from the ground up and truly help you heal from your trauma.
If you’re struggling with PTSD and you feel you’ve been using avoidance behavior to help, you’re not alone. Feel free to contact me. Together, we’ll work on more strategies you can use to cope in a healthy way, so you can find freedom in everyday living again.
For more information about my services in Delray Beach, Florida and Sandy Springs, Georgia, click here.