Learn About PTSD Emotional Avoidance and Why It Doesn’t Work

Veterans who suffer severe emotional trauma during their military service may return home and develop post-traumatic stress disorder. This medical condition occurs when a person has difficulty recovering after they witness or experience a life-threatening, traumatic event. Because military service personnel face extreme combat situations and dangerous environments, they are at a far greater risk of developing PTSD than other people. One reaction that veterans with PTSD may exhibit when trying to deal with a traumatic event is emotional avoidance.   

Emotional avoidance is a way for people with PTSD to escape the memory of a painful event and push away the challenging emotions that accompany that memory. Some of those emotions may include anxiety, sadness, shame, and fear. Avoidance refers to any behavior or action that interferes with or prevents those difficult emotions from surfacing. Because the emotions associated with the trauma are sometimes too overwhelming, avoidance is a way to help cope with reminders that may pop up in daily life. 

It’s understandable that veterans want to avoid horrific memories of a traumatic event, but research shows that those who try to avoid these memories and their associated emotions often make PTSD symptoms worse. Avoidance can actually contribute to the development of PTSD following a traumatic incident.

It takes a lot of energy to avoid emotions, and eventually, the feelings being pushed away may grow stronger and require even more intensity to avoid them. When this happens, you may have little energy left for those things in your life that matter to you. Relationships with your friends and family may diminish as you focus all your energy on avoiding the emotions associated with the trauma. Likewise, you may be less able to deal with frustrating or challenging situations that may occur because your energy is being spent elsewhere. 

It’s important to know some of the main avoidance behaviors, so you can begin to address them through therapy and other coping mechanisms. There are many ways avoidance behavior expresses itself, some of these include—using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate; engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as gambling, eating disorders, or self-harm; a diminished interest in relationships with friends and family; and reduced expectations for a career, marriage, children, or a regular life.

At Cuddigan Law, we understand how critical it is for veterans suffering from PTSD to get the medical help and disability benefits they have rightfully earned. That’s why we provide a wealth of free information on our website to help veterans with their claims.  And you can contact us for a free evaluation of your situation.

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