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What is avoidant-style coping?

Avoidant-style coping or avoidance coping is a maladaptive coping skill. It is the act of minimizing, denying, or avoiding the trigger that is causing stress. Avoidance coping stems from an escapist mentality in which the individual feels that they can “runaway” from their problems. For example, someone who engages in avoidance coping might call in sick they day they are supposed to have a tough conversation at work. Other forms of avoidance coping include rumination, procrastination, and passive aggressiveness. 

How does avoidant-style coping affect people?

Avoidant-style coping is a maladaptive coping skill because it does not actually solve anything. Many people engage in avoidant-style coping because they help us feel better and even safer in the moment; others engage in these behaviors because they might not know of another way to deal with stress. It is important to understand when we are engaging in avoidance coping because we can cause more issues for us in the long run. For example, someone who procrastinates homework because they are worried about their grade may end up getting a worse grade. This form of coping can cause people to have increased anxiety and depression, irritability, and even emotional dysregulation.

How can people deal with avoidant-style coping?

The best way to overcome avoidant-style coping is to learn healthier and active coping skills. Active coping skills are ways to deal with or confront the issue instead of avoiding it. There are two types of active coping skills: cognitive and behavioral.  Cognitive active coping involves challenging and changing your cognitions (i.e., changing the way you think about the problem). Behavioral active coping means directly addressing the issue (e.g., having the tough conversation with your loved one). Working together with your therapist can help you develop coping skills that will help you overcome stressors.

This page is part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.