What Your Teen’s Avoidance Behavior Really Means

Published On: December 19, 2023Categories: Teen Mental Health

So your teen is seemingly ignoring the basic chores you’re asking them to do, and suddenly you notice they’re no longer hanging out with their friends, they’re skipping class, and their moodiness is at an all-time low.

A case of the puberty blues? It might be a little bit more than that.

Avoidant behaviors, sometimes called avoidance coping, refers to a pattern of behavior that’s characterized by avoiding any situation or conversation, activity or experience that the individual finds uncomfortable or distressing. 

While avoiding uncomfortable situations might provide temporary relief, this type of behavior tends to foster traits of deeper anxiety, low self-esteem, obsessive-compulsive habits and more. If your teen has suddenly locked themselves away from the world and is refusing to engage with any living thing around them, it could be a reflection of something deeper they’re experiencing.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at teen avoidance behavior; what it is, how it looks, the root causes and how to support them through (even if from a distance).

What are avoidance behaviors?

Avoidance behaviors are actions, steps, precautions or strategies that individuals use in order to evade certain situations, thoughts or feelings that are uncomfortable or distressing. 

These behaviors often unconsciously develop as you subconsciously seek to form a coping mechanism for the anxiety or discomfort, and these behaviors often provide temporary relief. In the long run, however, avoidance will cause a myriad of problems when it comes to social interactions, work or school performance, emotional experiences and relationship intimacy.

Avoidance behaviors often manifest in the following ways:

  • Avoiding social situations like gatherings, celebrations, activities
  • Avoiding attending school, sports, chores and other responsibilities
  • Avoiding any type of confrontation, conflict or tough conversation
  • Excessive use of technology or social media (escaping real-life problems)
  • Isolating away from loved ones and seemingly “hiding from the world”
  • Drug or alcohol use to avoid stress, anxiety or uncomfortable emotions

While many of these behaviors could be easily written off as moodiness when exhibited by a teenager, it’s important to be attentive to behaviors that persist or become exacerbated. 

What causes teen avoidant behaviors?

Avoidant behaviors in teens are often linked to one or several underlying issues, such as anxiety, depression, stress, social challenges or an unhealed (and potentially secret) trauma.

If there’s already a level of tension between you and your teen (that just always seems to be there now), it can be tempting to turn the question on yourself and ask, “What did I do?” While there’s a chance you might have said or done something, it’s also very likely they’re suffering from something completely unrelated to you.

Understanding avoidance behaviors and recognizing when your teen is “just being a teenager” versus when they’re exhibiting symptoms of additional suffering, is key for being able to find them as well as provide the appropriate support. 

How to overcome avoidance behavior

Avoidance behavior is often connected to multiple mental health issues like feeling desperately powerless, being stuck in a victim mentality, chronic anxiety around little things and an obsession with what others think of them. Issues you likely aren’t qualified to help them with.

The best way to help your teen overcome avoidance behavior is to seek professional help, even if that means speaking with a professional yourself to learn more about the situation before drawing your teen into the conversation. If your teen is struggling with one or multiple mental or traumatic challenges, they need the assistance and guidance of medical professionals to heal.

If your teen is exhibiting signs of avoidance behavior, or they’re acting “off” and you’d like to speak with a professional, send a message to our team today.

Speak with a professional today

Here at Tapestry Recovery, we specialize in providing premier behavioral health treatment services to adolescents, adults and whole families. 

The treatment we offer encompasses mental health conditions, eating disorders, co-occurring disorders (when two disorders present simultaneously in an individual) and trauma therapy. Each client receives a fully customized treatment plan designed by one of our physicians, and then we work with you every step of the way to help you achieve your goals.

Reading your teen can be difficult. Figuring out if they’re “just being moody” or if their symptoms are reflective of a deeper issue can be challenging to diagnose. We’re here to help.

Send us a message or call us today at 828-490-4032 to learn more about teen avoidance behaviors, and the different ways we can support your teen and your family as they recover.

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