Avoidance, Escape, and Control
Human beings are creatures of habit. Sometimes these habits do not always serve us in the best way. Avoidance, escape, and control, when used in small amounts, do not harm our lives. However, if they are used in large quantities these thought and behavioral patterns can be disastrous.
What Is Avoidance?
Avoidance relates to being in proximity to a distressing stimulus (i.e. responsibilities you don’t want to do, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or guilt) and knowing it is there but not dealing with it. Avoidance in the short-term can be very effective as it gives us time and space to manage stressors in smaller chunks. It’s when avoidance turns in toMaybe a person used marijuana recreationally at a social gathering and noticed how relaxed it made them feel. More so, the individual noticed that they didn’t have thoughts of past traumatic events. Here the slippery slope can happen on purpose or accidentally and be ever reoccurring as long as the avoidant pattern is effective in reducing distress.
What Is Escape?
As soon as a distressing reminder of one’s past or other mental health symptoms appear there is a clear set of behaviors or thoughts to eliminate this stressor or create distance from the distress.
An example of escape would be if a combat veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was close to someone lighting off fireworks. As the fireworks start the veteran begins to either leave the area of driveway.
What Is Control?
Humans love certainty and predictability. We also attempt to influence our external and internal environments when we feel uncomfortable. This then can create avoidance and escape patterns.
This could mean we micromanage staff at our place of employment or check our partner’s phone to ensure they are not cheating. People even try to not have anxious thoughts; however, that does not work. Patterns of control can arise in a variety of ways.
How Do We Change Avoidance, Escape, and Control Patterns?
Any person can change these patterns with enough patience, intention, and persistence. A therapist near you could be a significant source of support and facilitate faster self-growth. Whether you do this alone or with a mental health therapist – mindfulness, self-awareness, and acceptance skills will play a vital role in decreasing these avoidance, escape, and control patterns in your life.
What Type of Therapy Can Help Address Avoidance, Escape, and Control Patterns?
An evidenced-based therapy that has shown positive results with decreasing these thought and behavior patterns is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). An ACT therapist can support you with developing self-awareness, mindfulness, and acceptance based skills to target these areas. ACT will also help you identify both values and committed actions you can engage in to increase the quality of your life.
Our mental health therapists are trained in ACT and ready to support you in your recovery journey. If you or someone you know experiences challenges with avoidance, escape, and/or control submit a form now to talk with a therapist within 48 hours.