How to Reduce Avoidance Behavior If You Have PTSD

Soldiers may suffer significant emotional and physical trauma during military service and later develop a medical condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This condition occurs when a veteran has difficulty recovering from a life-altering experience or traumatic incident. A veteran’s PTSD may cause her to react through “emotional avoidance” to escape the painful memories of the event or push away the overwhelming emotions associated with that memory.

Reducing avoidance behavior associated with PTSDHowever, avoiding the feelings linked to a terrifying experience can work against you, and be instrumental in developing PTSD following that experience.

Emotions provide important information about you and your surroundings that enable you to respond properly, and it takes a lot of energy to avoid them—energy that's better spent living your life and continuing to enjoy relationships with people you care about the most.

Emotional avoidance may provide temporary relief when you feel bad but over time, it can be quite harmful.

Reducing Avoidance Behaviors

If you’re using avoidance behavior in response to a trauma anniversary or memories of a painful, life-threatening event, there are strategies that help reduce that behavior, including: 

  • Make a list. Write out a list of people, places, or situations that make you anxious and afraid. Once you have the list, rank each one—which situations cause you the least amount of stress, medium stress, and high stress.
  • Practice exposure. Take one of the events that cause the least amount of anxiety or fear and confront it. Try to remain in the situation, event, or experience until you feel a reduction in your anxiety and/or fear. You can use breathing techniques and muscle relaxation to help ease anxiety, and you can use grounding techniques, as well. Grounding is a way to calm down quickly by directing your attention to what's happening to you physically—in your body or in your surroundings—instead of focusing on the thoughts causing you to feel anxious. Grounding helps you stay in the present instead of worrying about what happened in the past.
  • Keep a journal. Write down the situations you confronted and what you did to reduce your stress and anxiety instead of avoiding the emotions. As time passes, read back through your successes and what helped you cope, and evaluate the situations that are still difficult to face.

Remember: coping with situations that cause anxiety is often difficult at first. Working with a mental health professional can be beneficial in learning to reduce avoidance behaviors.

Cuddigan Law Can Help

If you’re a veteran who suffers from PTSD, it’s possible to qualify for financial support from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for disability benefits or appeal a rating decision, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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