For veterans suffering with PTSD, avoidance behaviors are often paired with emotional numbing. Both are coping mechanisms used to reduce the discomfort brought on by the emotional trauma causing the PTSD. By avoiding the emotional triggers that bring on unwanted memories, we hope to avoid the trauma that goes with it.
Avoidance behaviors may include:
- Trying to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the traumatic event.
- Trying an effort to avoid places or people that evoke memories of the traumatic event.
- Difficulty remembering important parts of the traumatic event.
- A loss of interest in activities that used to be important to us.
- Feeling distant and separated from others (on the outside looking in).
- Feeling we don’t deserve happiness or love.
Unfortunately, avoidance behaviors do not lead to healthy relationships. They only prolong pain.
You may try to avoid talking about intimate subjects with your spouse or other family members. You may refuse to attend family functions like holiday celebrations or other important events. While these behaviors may help reduce your anxiety, in the long run they damage your relationship with family and friends. Avoidance of emotions may even make some PTSD symptoms worse; trying to suppress emotion often blows up on us. It has a nasty habit of popping out in other areas of our lives.
Avoiding strong emotion requires a great deal of energy and it becomes quite an energy drain on you. Because avoided emotions tend to grow stronger, the amount of effort needed to keep things under control continues to increase. This may leave you with little energy left over for other important things, such as family and friends. Using so much energy to avoid emotions may lead to frustration and irritation, leaving you on edge and angry.