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In psychology, avoidance coping, or escape coping, is a maladaptive coping mechanism characterized by the effort to avoid dealing with a stressor. Coping refers to behaviors that attempt to protect oneself from psychological damage. Variations of avoidance coping include modifying or eliminating the conditions that gave rise to the problem and changing the perception of an experience in a way that neutralizes the problem.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are thought to be precursors to avoidance coping: PTSD sufferers draw into themselves, avoiding the trauma and partaking in cognitive or behavioral avoidance coping.
Individuals suffering from avoidance coping display symptoms similar to those of avoidant personality disorder, including drawing into oneself (avoiding relationships or social activities) and fearing commitment due to a fear of rejection. Such withdrawal behaviors manifest themselves in the personality as indecision and lack of confidence.
Caring for the elderly
Those who care for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias demonstrate symptoms of depression and stress that can lead to signs of avoidance coping. Closer relationships to the patient may lead to greater avoidance coping. This strategy may be used to alleviate stress caused by caring for the patient, such as financial burdens and feelings of guilt for resenting the patient. Factors that may lead to avoidance coping include low self-rated health, chronic medical conditions, and a history of psychiatric illness.
Cognitive behavioral and psychoanalytic therapy are used to help those coping by avoidance to acknowledge, comprehend, and express their emotions. Acceptance and commitment therapy, a behavioral therapy that focuses on breaking down avoidance coping and showing it to be an unhealthy method for dealing with traumatic experiences, is also sometimes used.
Both active-cognitive and active-behavioral coping are used as replacement techniques for avoidance coping. Active-cognitive coping includes changing ones attitude towards a stressful event and looking for any positive impacts. Active-behavioral coping refers taking positive actions after finding out more about the situation.
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