Types of Avoidance Behavior

Avoidance behavior is a widely observed phenomenon in both humans and animals. It is a coping mechanism that allows individuals to deal with stressful situations without having to confront the source of stress. Avoidance behavior is often an adaptive response to challenging environments, but it can also become maladaptive when the avoidance behavior becomes excessive or persistent.

1. Active Avoidance Behavior

Active avoidance behavior involves taking active steps to avoid a source of stress or discomfort. This can often involve behavioral changes such as avoiding certain situations, people, or objects that trigger negative emotions or anxiety. For example, a person with a phobia of spiders may actively avoid going outside during spider season or refuse to enter a room that they know contains spiders. Active avoidance behavior is often the most effective way of dealing with a source of stress, but it can also lead to social isolation and other negative consequences.

2. Passive Avoidance Behavior

Passive avoidance behavior involves more subtle ways of avoiding a source of discomfort. This can include simply not responding to a stimulus or pretending not to notice it. For example, a person who is uncomfortable with public speaking may avoid making eye contact with the audience or speak in a low tone to avoid drawing attention to themselves. While passive avoidance behavior can be a way of avoiding direct confrontation, it can also lead to missed opportunities and feelings of inadequacy.

3. Cognitive Avoidance Behavior

Cognitive avoidance behavior involves altering the way we think about a source of stress or discomfort. This can involve distracting ourselves with other thoughts or imagining more positive outcomes than we expect. For example, a person who dreads taking an exam may try to focus on the fact that they have studied hard and are well-prepared for the exam. While cognitive avoidance can be a helpful strategy in some situations, it can also lead to unrealistic expectations and feelings of disappointment if things don’t go as planned.

4. Emotional Avoidance Behavior

Emotional avoidance behavior involves suppressing or avoiding negative emotions that arise from a source of stress or discomfort. This can include avoiding situations that trigger negative emotions, such as feelings of anxiety or sadness. For example, someone who has experienced a traumatic event may avoid visiting the site of the event or watching a movie that depicts a similar event. While emotional avoidance behavior can provide temporary relief from negative emotions, it can also lead to long-term psychological problems and interfere with the ability to form healthy relationships.

5. Overcompensation Avoidance Behavior

Overcompensation avoidance behavior involves excessively engaging in activities or behaviors that provide a temporary escape from a source of stress or discomfort. This can include binge-watching TV shows, overeating, or engaging in substance abuse. Overcompensation can be a way of avoiding negative emotions, but it often leads to more problems and can become maladaptive over time. For example, someone who binge-watches TV to avoid dealing with negative emotions may eventually feel guilty, anxious, or depressed for not addressing the underlying problem.


Avoidance behavior is a complex phenomenon that can take many different forms. While avoidance behavior can be an effective coping mechanism in certain situations, it can also become maladaptive or harmful when used excessively or persistently. Understanding the types of avoidance behavior can help us identify maladaptive coping mechanisms and develop more effective ways of dealing with stress and discomfort.


What are Types of Avoidance Behaviour?

Types of avoidance behaviour refer to the ways individuals choose to avoid things that make them feel uncomfortable or anxious. These behaviours can be conscious or unconscious and can take many forms, including social avoidance, procrastination, and substance abuse.

What causes Avoidance Behaviour?

Avoidance behaviour can be triggered by a range of different factors, such as anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, or negative self-beliefs. Avoidance behaviour can also be a learned response to difficult or challenging situations or experiences.

Can Avoidance Behaviour be overcome?

Yes, avoidance behaviour can be overcome through a range of different treatments and strategies, including cognitive-behavioural therapy, exposure therapy, and mindfulness meditation. Seeking support from a mental health professional can help individuals learn effective coping mechanisms and develop more positive patterns of behaviour.


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