Avoidance coping

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In psychology, avoidance/avoidant coping or escape coping is a maladaptive coping mechanism[1] characterized by the effort to avoid dealing with a stressor.[2] Coping refers to behaviors that attempt to protect oneself from psychological damage.[3] Alternatives to 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.[3]

Avoidance coping, including social withdrawal, is an aspect of avoidant personality disorder, but not everyone who displays such behaviors meets the definition of having a personality disorder.[citation needed]Post-traumatic stress disorder may include avoidance coping behavior: PTSD sufferers may draw into themselves, avoiding the trauma and partaking in cognitive or behavioral avoidance coping.[4]


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.[5]

Both active-cognitive and active-behavioral coping are used as replacement techniques for avoidance coping. Active-cognitive coping includes changing one's 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.[6]

Beneficial forms of avoidance coping[edit]

Literature on coping often classifies coping strategies into two broad categories: approach/active coping and avoidance/passive coping.[7][8] Approach coping includes behaviors that attempt to reduce stress by alleviating the problem directly, and avoidance coping includes behaviors that reduce stress by distancing oneself from the problem.[9] Traditionally, approach coping has been seen as the healthiest and most beneficial way to reduce stress, while avoidance coping has been associated with negative personality traits, potentially harmful activities, and generally poorer outcomes.[10] However, research has shown that some types of avoidance coping have beneficial outcomes.[11][12] A study by Long and Haney found that both jogging and relaxation techniques were equally successful at reducing anxiety and increasing feelings of self-efficacy.[13] Therefore, it seems that positive forms of passive coping such as exercise and meditation have qualitatively different outcomes from negative forms such as binge eating and drug use.[14] These positive forms of passive coping may be particularly beneficial for alleviating stress when the individual does not currently have the resources to eliminate the problem directly, indicating the advantage of flexibility when engaging in coping behaviors.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Moshe Zeidner, Norman S. Endler, ed. (1995). Handbook of coping: theory, research, applications. Wiley. p. 514. ISBN 978-0-471-59946-3.
  2. ^ Friedman, Howard S.; Silver, Roxane Cohen (2006). Foundations of Health Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-19-513959-4.
  3. ^ a b Pearlin, LI; Schooler, C (1978). "The structure of coping". Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 19 (1): 2–21. doi:10.2307/2136319. JSTOR 2136319. PMID 649936.
  4. ^ Tiet, Quyen Q.; Rosen, Craig; Cavella, Steven; Moos, Rudolf H.; Finney, John W.; Yesavage, Jerome (2006). "Coping, symptoms, and functioning outcomes of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder". Journal of Traumatic Stress. 19 (6): 799–811. doi:10.1002/jts.20185. PMID 17195979.
  5. ^ Tull, Dr.Matthew. "PTSD and Emotional Avoidance". About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  6. ^ Billings, Andrew G.; Moos, Rudolf H. (1981). "The role of coping responses and social resources in attenuating the stress of life events". Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 4 (2): 139–57. doi:10.1007/BF00844267. PMID 7321033.
  7. ^ Roth, S; Cohen, L (1986). "Approach, avoidance, and coping with stress". American Psychologist. 813-819. 41 (7): 813–819. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.41.7.813.
  8. ^ Kleinke, C (2007). What does it mean to cope. Westport: The Praeger Handbook on Stress and Coping.
  9. ^ Carver, C; Scheier, M; Weintraub, J (1989). "Assessing coping strategies: a theoretically based approach". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 56 (2): 267–283. CiteSeerX doi:10.1037/0022-3514.56.2.267.
  10. ^ Holahan, C; Moos, R (1985). "Life stress and health: Personality, coping, and family support in stress resistance". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 49 (3): 739–747. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.49.3.739.
  11. ^ McCaul, K; Malott, J (1984). "Distraction and coping with pain". Psychological Bulletin. 95 (3): 516–533. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.95.3.516.
  12. ^ Seidman, S; Zager, J (1991). "A study of coping behaviours and teacher burnout". Work and Stress. 5 (3): 205–216. doi:10.1080/02678379108257019.
  13. ^ Long, B; Haney, C (1988). "Long-term follow-up of stressed working women: a comparison of aerobic exercise and progressive relaxation". Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 10 (4).
  14. ^ Lindquist, T; Beilin, J; Knuiman, M (1997). "Influence of lifestyle, coping, and job stress on blood pressure in men and women". Hypertension. 29 (1): 1–7. doi:10.1161/01.hyp.29.1.1. PMID 9039072.
  15. ^ Carver, C; Connor-Smith, J (2010). "Personality and coping". Annual Review of Psychology. 61: 679–704. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100352. PMID 19572784.