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Is Avoiding My Pain Harmful for Long-term Recovery From Trauma?

The simple answer is yes: avoiding your pain will not be helpful to recover from traumatic experiences. Healing comes from processing pain, and not from avoiding pain! Avoidance behaviors can have long-term consequences for recovering from trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Choosing to avoid the process of healing leads to other issues and can create other problems. While shutting ourselves off from the pain of our experiences may seem preferable, these avoidance strategies do not lead to the growth that can come from facing our pain head-to-head.

One of the most common types of avoidance behaviors is substance or alcohol abuse. To avoid dealing with the feelings or memories of a traumatic experience, some may use substances or alcohol to numb themselves from the pain. They may use the substances to block out feelings or forget what has happened in the past. Substance and alcohol abuse, however, can create many detrimental and long-term consequences. By using alcohol or substances to avoid feelings of pain, you might unintentionally create even more problems than the effects of trauma!

Another common avoidance technique is evading anything–people, places, or objects–that remind you of your traumatic experiences. While this avoidance may be understandable and, in some cases, necessary (example: avoiding an abusive partner or a dangerous environment), sometimes, avoidance of these things can diminish your overall quality of life. For example, avoiding all romantic relationships due to the traumatic experiences of past spousal abuse. By overgeneralizing that all romantic relationships lead to trauma, you then miss out on building healthy relationships with loving people. Only by dealing with your pain directly will you learn the skills needed to cope with your trauma.

Avoidance behaviors may seem helpful in the short-term; however, avoidance will either introduce negative coping skills (like addictions) or will reduce potential positive experiences (like avoiding all relationships). Avoidance is a negative coping strategy that prevents the personal growth that will come from allowing yourself to experience your pain.

While in recovery from traumatic experiences and PTSD, you may find that opening up and re-experiencing painful memories is unbearable and too difficult to do. Remember that you are strong and you are not alone! While avoidance may seem preferable and may even seem like a form of self-care, avoidance only serves as a temporary measure that limits our capacity for personal growth. Avoidance is a short-term strategy that does not lead to long-term growth and healing. You may need to surround yourself in a supportive environment to process your pain. The Guest House offers recovery programs with a focus on healing from trauma. Our facility is a warm, safe, and comfortable space with trained staff and peers in recovery, who understand the pain you are dealing with. Call us today at (855) 483-7800 for more information!