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  • Writer's pictureGary Katz

Repeated Patterns of Avoidance as Coping Mechanisms For Unresolved Trauma

Individuals with unresolved trauma often develop avoidance behaviors as a way to cope with distressing memories, emotions, or reminders of the traumatic event. These avoidance behaviors serve as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from experiencing further emotional pain or triggering distress. 

While the manifestation of unresolved trauma can vary from person to person, here are some common signs to look out for:

1. Avoidance of Triggers: Trauma survivors may actively avoid people, places, or situations that remind them of the traumatic event. For example, if the trauma occurred in a particular location, they may avoid going to that place or any similar environments. They may also avoid certain activities, conversations, or even specific smells, sounds, or objects associated with the trauma.

2. Emotional Numbing: Some individuals with unresolved trauma may engage in emotional numbing as a way to avoid feeling the intensity of their emotions. They may suppress or disconnect from their emotions, creating a barrier between themselves and their feelings. This emotional numbing can manifest as a general sense of apathy, a lack of emotional expression, or feeling emotionally detached from oneself and others.

3. Social Withdrawal: Individuals with unresolved trauma may withdraw from social interactions and isolate themselves. They may avoid social gatherings, parties, or events where they may encounter triggers or face potential emotional discomfort. This social withdrawal can lead to a sense of loneliness and hinder the individual's ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.

4. Substance Abuse or Self-Medication: Some individuals may turn to substance abuse or self-medication as a means of avoiding the pain associated with unresolved trauma. Alcohol, drugs, or other addictive substances may be used as a way to escape or numb their emotions temporarily. However, this coping mechanism can lead to further complications and negatively impact their overall well-being.

5. Distraction and Over-Busyness: Unresolved trauma can cause individuals to engage in excessive distraction or over-business to avoid confronting their emotions or thoughts related to the trauma. They may fill their schedules with numerous activities, work excessively, or constantly keep themselves occupied to avoid moments of quiet reflection that may bring up painful memories or emotions.

6. Dissociation: Dissociation is a common avoidance mechanism observed in individuals with unresolved trauma. It involves detaching oneself from the present moment or from their own thoughts, feelings, or sensations. Dissociation can manifest as spacing out, feeling disconnected from reality, or experiencing a sense of detachment from one's body or surroundings.

7. Avoidance of Emotional Discussions: Individuals with unresolved trauma may actively avoid conversations or discussions that delve into their emotions or the traumatic event. They may deflect or change the topic to prevent themselves from experiencing emotional discomfort or vulnerability. This avoidance can hinder their ability to process and heal from the trauma.

It is important to note that these avoidance behaviors are adaptive strategies developed by individuals to protect themselves from further emotional pain. However, while they may provide temporary relief, they can ultimately hinder the healing process. Seeking professional help from a trained therapist can assist individuals in addressing and resolving their trauma in a safe and supportive environment.

If you feel that you or your relationship may be suffering from the impact of trauma, please reach out today to schedule a consultation and start feeling better!


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