A Parent’s Guide to Recognizing Avoidance Behaviors in Your Teen

Published On: December 29, 2023Categories: Teen Mental Health

Being a teenager can be rough.

The teen is facing mental, emotional, social and physical changes that no amount of parent-teacher talks can fully prepare them for. The parent(s), then, often find themselves living with a seemingly estranged young person they may not feel they know or even recognize anymore. 

Suddenly it seems as if your teen is always in their room, or always on their phone; maybe you ask some of their friends if they’re doing okay, and discover they haven’t hung out in weeks. 

Is your teen “just being a teenager,” or is there a deeper issue at the root of their behavior?

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at avoidant behaviors; what they are, what causes them, as well as how to identify this type of behavior in your teenager.

What is avoidance behavior?

Avoidant behaviors, also sometimes called avoidance coping, refers to a pattern of behavior that’s characterized by a person avoiding other people, conversations and any social situations that they find uncomfortable, distressing, or threatening (whether real or perceived).

People of all ages can develop avoidant behaviors. While some are very conscious of their decisions as they turn down various social events or gatherings, others have no idea that they’ve subconsciously adopted this behavior. 

Avoidance behaviors, while they may provide temporary relief like most coping mechanisms, are not a sustainable approach in the long run. This isn’t to say you should be forcing yourself into situations that go against your better judgment.

Understanding avoidance behaviors in your son or daughter, and then learning to recognize the difference between “just teen” behaviors versus the signs of a deeper issue, will be beneficial for all.

What causes teen avoidance behavior?

Avoidance behaviors can be rooted in multiple issues, including anxiety, depression, stress, social challenges, as well as unhealed (and potentially secret) traumas that have been witnessed or experienced directly.

Parents often wonder if their teen’s avoidance is ‘their fault.’ Honest (but empathetic) self-reflection can be beneficial; it can reveal traits or behaviors in yourself that could be improved, and ultimately, strengthen your relationship with your child.

It’s also essential, however, to recognize that your teen is influenced by many more people and situations outside of yourself, and the behavioral challenges they’re experiencing could very well be related to someone or something completely unrelated to you.

Avoidance behavior examples

Teen avoidance behaviors can manifest in a variety of ways, and it’s important to remember that many of these behaviors, when isolated or infrequent, are simply a normal part of adolescence. 

You might remember the struggles you experienced in high school as you tried to figure out who you are, navigate academics, relationships, new emotions, social difficulties and more. Some days are harder than others; frustration, emotional exhaustion, and mental health, becomes overwhelming at times and self-isolation from time to time is nothing to be concerned about.

Persistent or extreme avoidance behaviors may indicate more complex and underlying issues your teen is facing, however. 

The most common teen avoidance behavior examples are:

  • Isolating from friends and family 
  • Excessive time alone in their room
  • Avoiding social gatherings or previously enjoyed activities
  • Skipping school or being extremely reluctant
  • Avoiding most (if not all) difficult conversations or situations
  • Technology addictions, which aid in numbing and distracting
  • Avoiding or refusing to plan their future (education, career, license, goals)
  • Engaging in substance abuse

If your teen’s isolation, attitude or behavioral difficulties have been persisting for weeks or months without “breaks,” it could be a sign they’re struggling with something greater than just a normal case of the puberty blues.

Speak with an advisor today

Here at Tapestry Recovery, we specialize in providing the highest quality treatment to adolescents, adults and entire families as they work through healing together. 

Our team of highly experienced physicians, therapists, nurses and other care providers are fluent in providing treatment for mental health and eating disorders, co-occurring disorders as well as trauma therapy. We’re here to help your teen, as well as the rest of the family, heal.

To speak with one of our qualified advisors and learn more about how we can support your teen on their journey of growth and healing, send us a message or give us a call at 828-490-4032.

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