When do coping techniques turn into avoidance?

Recently we had a minor crisis in our home.  It was actually one with a positive outcome, but regardless of the ultimate result it was unexpected and overwhelming.  Without even thinking, I began a new book.  I love to read.  I’ve devoured books since I was a child and still feel at loose ends if I don’t have a book going.  It’s a natural coping mechanism for me:  A blissful escape from problems and stress.

Soon I began reading at every possible moment.  The laundry began to pile up and the kids rejoiced at pizza and fast food dinners.  I read during dinner, in the evenings, while cooking or emptying the dishwasher.  When I wasn’t able to read, I was thinking about how I’d sneak in the next few pages.  I was avoiding the original crisis, the people around me and every tedious task I could.

I told myself that I deserved the break.  Reading is healthy and even educational, I rationalized.  But, my coping mechanism was no longer solving a problem.  It had, in fact, become the problem.

Avoidance of painful events and trigger cues can be functional strategies for tolerating immediate stressful events.  There are times when it is healthy to distract yourself from pain.  Crisis situations and the pain they cause cannot always be immediately processed and there are times when we need to be able to function.  However, suppressing and avoiding all contact with a crisis situation ensures that the pain will continue and that problems related to the crisis will remain unsolved.

Escape and distraction can become a habit.  It takes courage to face new and challenging circumstances.  It requires a personal assessment to determine at what point continued distance should give way to approach, in order to manage the current upheaval.  If avoidance is beginning to interfere with your day-to-day functioning or your relationships, it’s time to take a closer look.

In the short term the ability to self-soothe and distract are effective skills to get through difficult moments.  However, at some point we must return to work and school and face day-to-day life, despite emotional pain.



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 2 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.


From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (April 29, 2010)

Lifeline (April 30, 2010)

Lisa Brookes Kift (April 30, 2010)

    Last reviewed: 29 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Matta, C. (2010). Stress Management or Avoidance?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/dbt/2010/04/stress-management-or-avoidance/



Subscribe to this Blog:

Or Get a Single, Daily Email (enter email address):

via FeedBurner

Recent Comments
  • Irish dela Trinidad: Extreme emotions it comes out naturally, but as a human we need to control our emotions, because...
  • Jean: extreme emOtions is dIfFicuLt to handle.why?Because theres a p0ssibility s0me thIngs becAme w0rSt and it can...
  • N P Duncan-Adam: The list of problems and difficulties experienced by an Individual is well covered here however the...
  • kathygram: She didn’t say how old her daughter is. If she is an adult, unless you have a release from your...
  • eugene: Well done! Good articulations and suggestions how to observe thoughts. Very encouraging, too.
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!