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Emotional avoidance

Emotional avoidance

Emotions are an important part of life and can feel really scary, especially when they are intense. Emotions motivate our behaviour. For example, dealing with anger can be so tough that a person may feel like he or she will explode. When we feel heartbroken, we might try not to talk to anyone. It is also very common to get rid of troubling emotions like anxiety as a part of therapy.

Emotional avoidance is how most people respond to trauma. This article is all about emotional avoidance. You will be able to know what it is, what are some signs and how you can deal with it. So, let’s get started:

Types of avoidance behaviour

Avoidance means avoiding stressor instead of dealing with it. It might seem like an excellent way to decrease stress, but that is not always true. Moreover, avoiding stress is not always possible, but we can manage it with reliable coping techniques. Before discussing emotional avoidance, lets discuss some other types of avoidance behaviours:

Situational avoidance

It is one of the most commonly used types of avoidance behaviours. If a person tries to avoid social activities or leaves a job just because he does not like someone, he uses situational avoidance. Those who use situational avoidance may fear certain locations, people, social situations, animals, etc., making them feel panicked.

Cognitive avoidance

Cognitive avoidance is when a person tries to avoid his inner thoughts and memories that are distressing and unpleasant. People usually take actions to completely reject or suppress certain experiences that feel overwhelming or unpleasant.

Protective avoidance

Protective avoidance involves the use of safety behaviours excessively like over-preparing, cleaning, checking, or perfectionism. Those who have symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder use this kind of avoidance behaviour. Procrastination is also somehow considered among one of the forms of protective avoidance.

Somatic avoidance

If you have dealt with anxiety, you already know that it does not only affect you mentally but also physically. Shallow breathing, sweaty palms, tightness in the chest and increased heart rate, along with depressing thoughts when someone feels anxious. In somatic avoidance, a person tries not to feel internal changes associated with stress, like getting exhausted or fatigue.

Substitution avoidance

Substitution avoidance means replacing one feeling with other. For example, a person may try to replace grief with anger or some other emotion that feels more tolerable. Numbing out is another form of substitution avoidance; for example, people who cannot cope with difficult feelings might binge on substances, food, sex, shopping, gambling or pornography to distract.

Emotional avoidance meaning

Now let’s move to our main concern, emotional avoidance. What is emotional avoidance meaning? Here is a simple definition:

“Emotional avoidance refers to any action designed to prevent the occurrence of an uncomfortable emotion such as fear, sadness, or shame.”

Emotional avoidance PTSD

Research suggests that people who are suffering from PTSD try to push away their emotions, whether traumatic or general. Additionally, it has been found that avoiding certain emotions can make some PTSD symptoms worse and can also contribute to the development of symptoms related to PTSD after a traumatic event.

Emotional avoidance in relationships

Emotionally avoidant people in relationships scare their partner with indifference, and this can lead to a break-up. Emotional intimacy is very important in a relationship as it brings mental peace. An avoidant partner may appear frustrating but cannot be blamed for everything. Relationships form between two people, and issues within a relationship must be examined in the context of both partners. But we all agree that emotional avoidance in relationships can prove very dangerous.

Signs of emotional avoidance

While dealing with an emotionally avoidant partner, you might start thinking it has something to do with you. You think that he does not like you or you are not good enough. But that is not the case; he or she just doesn’t know how to communicate his or her emotions and be more available emotionally. Here are some signs of emotional avoidance that you might notice in your partner:

Avoiding commitment

Emotionally avoidant partners may avoid talking about the future or making long term plans. They talk vaguely when asked about what they want. Any small activity or trip that can bring you two closer scares them, so they might cancel plans on you. They might have a history of ending their previous relationships.

Sabotage a relationship

Things are going well, everything is fine, but they may sabotage a relationship by acting angry or childish etc.; the more you try to commit to them, want to get closer to them, the more they pull back. For this, they may become less communicative.


All they talk about is independence and not about closeness. They want freedom over intimacy, self-reliance over interdependence. They are scared of clingy people and also don’t want to be seen as clingy themselves.

Handling crisis

Emotionally avoidant people can’t rely on anyone even if they are in extreme trouble. They usually put up walls and deal with things on their own.


Emotionally avoidant partners may feel difficulty trusting people, and sometimes their partner is no exception. They may see your actions in the worst possible way. They might think that you will take advantage of them and will leave them alone.

Unclear messages

Emotionally avoidant partners will try to maintain distance with their unclear signals. For instance, sometimes they will draw you closer, and other times will push you away. They might say something to you and will do the opposite. Like they may tell you that they want to spend time with you but will cram their schedule with other things.


Being secretive is one of the clear signs of emotional avoidance. They will make decisions on their own, even those that might affect you. They may decide things about career, travel, finances and other plans and will tell you when there is nothing you can do. Instead of collaborative planning, they prefer solo mode and love decision making.


Your facing relationship issues, want to talk about something that is bothering you, they will try their best to avoid the conversation. They might detach themselves or threaten you to leave if their or your feelings are so intense.

How to deal with an emotionally avoidant partner?

Emotional avoidance in relationships can be stressful sometimes. The first thing you need to do if you find your partner emotionally avoidant is to figure out how past issues in relationships and your behaviour contribute to all this scenario. Working with a couple’s counsellor can also prove helpful. But generally speaking, those who are attracted to emotionally avoidant partners have childhood experiences having a parent who was not emotionally available.

When they meet someone with an emotionally avoidant personality, they think that they have gotten a chance to make someone like that be attentive, present and commit. That’s when a pursuer-distancer dynamic is created. It means one partner is pursuing  the other for intimacy while the other one is pushing them away.

So, in many cases examining your own behaviour first can prove really helpful. For example, if you are sending 100 texts in a row telling him how bad you feel and he is not responding, it is not helpful behaviour. This can make them feel stressed and overwhelmed.

Accepting your partner

If you want to make your relationship work and be successful, you need to accept your partner the way he is while staying honest about what you need. This clearly does not mean a 16 hours text conversation with your partner but things you actually need to feel like a couple, a healthy couple. This could be something you want your partner to say to you once in a while, like, “I love you”, or a partner who cannot skip plans and makes effort for quality time.

If your emotionally avoidant partner does not make a little effort to respond to your little basic needs, ending your relationship might be something you should think about. However, if they are trying but things don’t turn out the way you want because of their own issues, this is not significantly a signal that this will not work out. It may need time and patience BOOK COUPLES THERAPY NOW

Couples therapy

Relationships are not easy at all, and emotional avoidance can make it even more difficult. Sometimes you both have the best intentions, but things are not working out because you two do not know how to deal with issues in a healthy way. That is when a counsellor can prove helpful. Consider couple therapy, and you will be able to deal with your relationship issues successfully.

Emotional avoidance disorder

Emotional avoidance disorder is all about avoidance behaviours in order to deal with complicated emotions. Ignoring your emotions is very unhealthy. Our emotions play important roles, both psychological and physiological. Your emotions allow you to understand yourself and the things going around you. These emotions serve as a way of communication with your brain and motivate actions. For instance, fear is an indication that you might be in danger; sadness indicates that you need some time to take care of yourself.

Emotional avoidance, no doubt, can temporarily suppress difficult emotions, but if you ignore your emotions for a long time, they may grow harder. Emotions may fight back to serve their functions.

If a person is determined to ignore his emotions, he may try to use more unhealthy and drastic ways to avoid them, for example, substance use. Avoiding emotions may also require strong effort, and when your emotions get stronger because of your avoidance, you will need even more effort to keep them at bay. Thus, you will have little energy for other tasks and important things in your life, for example, your friends and family.

Use your whole energy in keeping your emotions at bay. It might become difficult for you to enjoy and manage other experiences, which can bring irritation and frustration, and you will be angry all the time. Let’s discuss emotional avoidance symptoms.

Emotional avoidance symptoms

A child with emotional avoidance disorder may show no affection or love, or desire for closeness. But internally, he or she may feel  very stressed and troubled, anxious just like others in a stressful situation. Such a child may want to be around his caregiver but will not interact with them. He or she may reject physical contact with his caregiver too.

Emotional avoidance during childhood can last to adulthood. As an adult, a person may show the following emotional avoidance symptoms:

  • Avoiding emotional closeness
  • Find others clingy when they try to build an emotional connection
  • Try to deal with difficult situations alone or withdraw
  • Suppressing emotions
  • Do not talk about what is wrong
  • Suppress negative memories
  • Avoiding unpleasant situations or conversations
  • Fear rejection
  • Have a strong sense of independence

How to deal with emotional avoidance?

The best way to deal with emotional avoidance is to develop healthy coping mechanisms that help you identify your emotions, accept them, and process them so that you can be at a better place in life. Therapy is an excellent way to understand and express your emotions additionally examine the sources of emotional responses.

Here are some options that you can try to manage your emotions:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

In order to examine your feelings associated with a traumatic event, cognitive behavioural therapy can help address how particular thoughts or methods of evaluating a situation contribute to your feelings.

Therapists who use CBT for treatment usually focus on what is happening in the current life of a person instead of what happened in the past. The whole focus is on moving forward, not worrying about the past, and devising effective strategies to cope with life.

Acceptance and commitment therapy

Acceptance commitment therapy mainly focuses on eliminating the avoidance behaviour and helping out a person in placing their energy into living a meaningful life. It also helps a person in being willing to deal with emotions that arise. For producing psychological flexibility, ACT utilizes mindfulness and acceptance processes, behaviour change and commitment processes.

Self-Monitoring and social support

No matter which therapy you choose, seeking help from a professional provides you with a safe place to express and deal with your emotions. Seeking help from your loved ones can also help you express your emotions in a safe way. Writing down how you feel can also provide you with a private and safe place to get rid of your deepest thoughts.

If you feel like your emotions are unpredictable and unclear, self-monitoring can also prove helpful. This strategy can help you figure out which scenarios bring out certain feelings and thoughts.

Additionally, if your emotions are very strong, instead of avoidance, try distraction. Distraction is a form of temporary avoidance. Strong negative thoughts and emotions can be very problematic so try to do something temporarily to distract you from these. For instance, try calling your best friend, take a bath, read a book or watch your comfort movie or series. This may give you time to lower the intensity of emotion, making it a bit easier to deal with.

Emotional avoidance questionnaire

An emotional avoidance questionnaire is a way to figure out how detached a person is from his emotions. Questionnaires are helpful in population analysis.

Here is an example of an Emotional avoidance questionnaire question:

  • I pay attention to how I feel.
  • I have no idea how I am feeling.
  • I have difficulty making sense out of my feelings.
  • I care about what I am feeling.
  • I am confused about how I feel.
  • When I’m upset, I acknowledge my emotions.
  • When I’m upset, I become embarrassed for feeling that way.
  • When I’m upset, I have difficulty getting work done.
  • When I’m upset, I become out of control.
  • When I’m upset, I believe that I will end up feeling very depressed.
  • When I’m upset, I have difficulty focusing on other things.
  • When I’m upset, I feel guilty for feeling that way.
  • When I’m upset, I have difficulty concentrating.
  • When I’m upset, I have difficulty controlling my behaviours.
  • When I’m upset, I believe there is nothing I can do to make myself feel better.
  • When I’m upset, I become irritated with myself for feeling that way.
  • When I’m upset, I lose control over my behaviour.
  • When I’m upset, it takes me a long time to feel better.

These questions come up with five different options, and you have to choose the most relative one among,

  • Almost never
  • Sometimes
  • About half the time
  • Most of the time
  • Almost always

Emotional avoidance quotes

Avoiding your emotions will not help you at all; accepting them and processing them is what will help you, and you will emerge stronger after this process. Here are some of the best emotional avoidance quotes for you:

  • “Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs. In an attempt to control these processes, they often become experts at ignoring their gut feelings and numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” (p.97)” ― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
  • “Problem is, the bathroom pass can’t help you escape life. It’s still there when you come out. Problems and crap don’t go away hiding in the can.” ― Simone Elkeles, Perfect Chemistry.
  • “You get hit the hardest when trying to run or hide from a problem. Like the defense on a football field, putting all focus on evading only one defender is asking to be blindsided.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy.
  • “Mental anguish always results from the avoidance of legitimate suffering.” ― Stefan Molyneux.
  • “Depression is about anger, it is about anxiety, it is about character and heredity. But it is also about something that is in its way quite unique. It is the illness of identity, it is the illness of those who do not know where they fit, who lose faith in the myths they have so painstakenly created for themselves. […] It is a plague – especially if you add in its various forms of expression, like alcoholism, anorexia, bulimia, drug addiction, compulsive behaviour of one kind or another. They’re all the same things: attempts to avoid disappearance, or nothingness, or chaos.” ― Tim Lott, Scent of Dried Roses.
  • “Avoid those who seek friends in order to maintain a certain social status or to open doors they would not otherwise be able to approach.” ― Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra.
  • “Emotional pain cannot kill you, but running from it can. Allow. Embrace. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal.” ― Vironika Tugaleva.

You will find these emotional avoidance quotes most relatable:

  • “If life has got to be a play, let’s play it well. As the avoidance of problems and the maintenance of inner peace may guide us smartly through open and unswerving confrontations, let’s face up to conflicts playfully, as well. Playfulness allows us to see things from different angles and may sometimes save us from harmful outcomes. (“The band was still playing”).” ― Erik Pevernagie
  • “Many survivors struggle to believe the abuse happened. They don’t want to believe it. It’s too painful to think about. They don’t want to accuse family members or face the terrible loss involved in realizing “a loved one” hurt them; they don’t want to rock the boat.” ― Laura Davis, Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse.
  • “Avoiding triggers is a symptom of PTSD, not a treatment for it.” ― Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.
  • “Life isn’t in our brain // It flows through our veins. Just a little cut to drain out the galaxies that keep me up tonight. Just a little cut and all this goes away. Just a little cut and no more thoughts. No memories. No pain. I mean screw nostalgia. I don’t want it. Take it back!” ― Sijdah Hussain, Red Sugar, No More.
  • “Why are we so afraid of confronting ourselves? Why do we always use the loud noises of the outside world to mute what our inner voice is trying to tell us?” ― Louis Yako.
  • “We are all a little broken. What separates us, though, is crystal clear. Acceptance and continuous attempts at growth or avoidance and sitting stagnant. I choose acceptance and growth. What do you choose?”.” ― Christine E. Szymanski.
  • “There are some people who always seem angry and continuously look for conflict. Walk away; the battle they are fighting isn’t with you, it is with themselves.” ― Anonymous.
  • “Bypassing the issue does not solve the root causes of that issue, it just makes a person feel better until the issue reappears in different ways or in different parts of the body.” ― Karl Forehand, The Tea Shop.
  • “Pain is not tragic. Pain is magic. Suffering is tragic. Suffering is what happens when we avoid pain and consequently miss our own becoming. That is what I can and must avoid: missing my own evolution because I am too afraid to surrender to the process.” ― Glennon Doyle, Untamed.


Your emotions are what make you human. Because of these emotions, you feel happiness, love, hate, everything. If you avoid your emotions, you will never be able to form healthy relationships. By relationships, I do not mean romantic ones only but also work relationships, family relationships and friendships. You will miss a lot of things. So, if you feel like you have an emotionally avoidant personality, make sure to reach out to a professional.

This was all about Emotional avoidance; I have tried my best to share useful information with you hope you will find it helpful. CLICK HERE AND GET HELP WITH YOUR SITUATION NOW.

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