Counseling, Coaching, Psychology, Therapy

Avoidance and Trauma Therapy

on August 9, 2014

Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Tucson

What does avoidance have to do with trauma therapy? Avoidance is a common coping strategy. In psychotherapy, when we talk about avoidance we mean strategies for avoiding unwanted or uncomfortable feelings. Avoidance is a natural and understandable response to a traumatic event. Who wouldn’t want to avoid reminders of a painful and overwhelming experience? Or attempt to avoid situations because you fear something similar could occur again?

The problem is, avoidance doesn’t really work. In fact, avoidance strengthens the fear and anxiety response! The more we avoid a place, person, or even feeling, the more likely we will continue to feel anxious about it and continue avoiding it. A vicious cycle!

Ongoing avoidance is one criteria required for a diagnosis of PTSD in the DSM V:

Criterion C: avoidance

Persistent effortful avoidance of distressing trauma-related stimuli after the event:(one required)

  1. Trauma-related thoughts or feelings.
  2. Trauma-related external reminders (e.g., people, places…

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