The Cost of Avoidance

September 8, 2017 by Jenny Thomson


Anxiety is a funny thing – we all experience it, and many have suggested that it has its roots in evolution.  Back in the hunting and gathering days, we had to be alert for any signs of predators lurking around, and our sense of anxiety would signal us to flee the area or prepare for a fight.

Today, as a human race we still experience anxiety on a daily basis, even in the absence of dangerous predators.  As humans, we have a tendency to want to protect ourselves from danger, but in some instances, that perception of danger can be a little bit off.  Anxiety typically leads to avoidance – the hunter doesn’t hunt north of the forest because he knows there’s a large family of lions that lives there.  Similarly, we often try to avoid situations that are dangerous to us.  However, at times, rather than avoiding dangerous situations, we simply end up avoiding unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  But at what cost?  Think back to the last time that you avoided an uncomfortable situation, and what the consequences of that situation were.  Sure, you maybe got to avoid the unpleasant sensation of fear associated with getting on a roller coaster, but perhaps you missed out on a fun day with family and friends.  Sometimes the consequences are even more dire, such as when we avoid applying to our dream job because we’re anxious about the interview process.  What sort of long-term implications are there to something like that?  They could be huge.


Edward A. Selby, Ph.D., wrote an interesting article for Psychology Today outlining the potential costs to our avoidance behaviours.  In it, Selby explains that sometimes these avoidance behaviours can lead to serious costs, such as missing out on important and fulfilling events.  He further suggests that facing some of our fears and anxiety can often enhance our quality of life and, over time, decrease our anxiety levels overall.  Click here to read more.


Selby, E.  (2010, May 4).  Avoidance of Anxiety as Self-Sabotage: How Running Away Can Bite You in the Behind.  Retrieved from 

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