Social Anxiety: Can Some Avoidance Be Beneficial?


A lot of people who have an anxiety disorder use avoidance so that they won’t have to deal with their fears. A person with arachnophobia (fear of arachnids, like spiders) may avoid going into old buildings for fear of seeing a spider. A person with panic disorder may be so afraid of having a panic attack in public that he or she develops agoraphobia, a fear of being in open spaces.

Most psychology treatments discourage people from engaging in these avoidant behaviors, because they prevent people from actually dealing with the problem (the fear itself). Avoidance can make people who suffer from anxiety put off getting the help they need to overcome their disorder. They may choose to live a much less healthy and satisfying life simply to have to avoid having to face what they are afraid of.

A professor of neural science at NYU writes an article for the New York Times explaining that not all avoidance is necessarily a bad thing. He describes how avoidance can be used by fearful individuals to take charge of their fear and keep their anxiety controlled. He specifically describes how this applies to people with social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia), and what someone can do to make avoidance into a positive tool.

Read the article by the professor here:

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