When We Avoid Anxiety

Safety Behaviors

One of the most harmful responses to anxiety is avoidance. When a person avoids the source of their anxiety, they feel relief. However, the next time they face a similar situation, their anxiety will be worse.

Safety behaviors are subtle actions used to avoid anxiety in social situations. For example, someone who is anxious about socializing at a party might focus on their phone to discourage others from approaching. Although safety behaviors provide some relief, they make anxiety worse in the long run.

AnxietySafety BehaviorsConsequences
·   drawing attention to myself in groups ·   speak very softly·   avoid eye contact ·   temporary relief from anxiety·   difficulty making friends·   people think I’m unfriendly·   I never face my fear

Circle the safety behaviors you use to avoid social anxiety, or write your own.

speak very littlespeak very softlyhold arms stiffly at sides to prevent trembling
stand far from others to avoid conversationavoid sharing personal informationavoid eye contact
constantly check appearance in mirrorobsess over appearance before socializingcome up with reasons to leave social event early
use drugs / alcoholavoid eating in front of otherswear excessive makeup to hide blushing
avoid asking questionsexcessively rehearse what to say before socializinguse distractions to appear busy (e.g. phone, TV)
talk excessively to avoid silenceslie or exaggerate to look bettercontinually seek reassurance or approval
cave to peer pressure or wishes of others  
*Taken from therapist.aide.com

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