Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

When a person avoids a feared situation—either through physical avoidance, the use of drugs and alcohol, or otherwise —the uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety begin to fade away. 

However, this relief is only short-term. And next time, the anxiety will be worse. The brain thinks: “Last time I avoided this situation, it felt better.” The desire to avoid a situation can become increasingly difficult to resist.

Many anxiety treatments, such as CBT and exposure therapies, work by breaking the cycle of anxiety and avoidance. With the support of a licensed therapist and monitored exposure program, you are encouraged to face the source of your anxiety head-on, diminishing the desire to avoid your anxieties and reduce their enormity. 

The Cycle of Anxiety tool illustrates the steps in tackling the basics of anxiety. It will help you understand the rationale behind exposure therapies and the importance of overcoming avoidance.

Anxiety

An anxiety-inducing situation leads to uncomfortable symptoms such as worry, fear, a racing heart, sweating, or a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Avoidance

Uncomfortable symptoms are controlled by avoiding the anxiety-inducing situation. Examples of avoidance include: Skipping class to avoid giving a presentation, using drugs or alcohol to numb feelings, or procrastinating on tackling a challenging task. 

Short-term relief from anxiety

Avoidance of the anxiety-inducing situation gives an immediate sense of relief. The symptoms of anxiety lessen, but only temporarily.

Long-Term Anxiety Growth

The anxiety behind the situation you avoided, begins to worsen. The brain learns that when the anxiety-inducing situation is avoided, the symptoms go away. As a result, your anxiety symptoms will be worse the next time you encounter the avoided situation, thus the cycle of avoidance begins again. 

Thank you to Therapist Aid for the inspiration

Interested in immediate support from a registered, licensed therapist via text and/or video? Download Snapclarity to get the help you need, when you need it.