The Downside of Avoidance: How It Fuels Anxiety

The discomfort of anxiety may tempt you to use avoidance strategies to manage it. Though avoidance may offer temporary relief, it ultimately worsens anxiety in the long run. This blog post will delve into how avoidance reinforces your fears and how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) can help you regain control.

Can you avoid anxiety…?

Avoidance may feel like a quick fix to shield you from anxiety, but it’s deceptive. By avoiding anxiety-inducing situations, you confirm to your minds that these situations are threatening (even when they’re not!). This can create a positive feedback loop that keeps you anxious, restricted, and trapped.

How does CBT help anxiety?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) examines how your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are connected. It aims to challenge negative thought patterns that perpetuate anxiety and teaches healthier coping strategies. Avoidance often arises from distorted thinking patterns, like catastrophizing or overgeneralization, which reinforce your fears and keep anxiety alive.

How ERP can help reduce fear:

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a version of CBT, provides a practical method to confront anxiety head-on. It involves gradually exposing yourself to anxiety triggers in a safe, controlled setting. The key is to stay in the situation until the anxiety diminishes, breaking the link between the trigger and your conditioned avoidance response. This helps your brain understand that the perceived threat isn’t as bad as it thought, retraining it to give us less of a fear response.

How to embrace uncertainty:

ERP encourages you to embrace uncertainty, a major driver of anxiety. By confronting situations where outcomes are unpredictable, you build resilience and learn that you can handle uncertainty without succumbing to anxiety avoidance behaviors.

Self-Compassion and anxiety treatment:

Throughout this process, it’s crucial to be self-compassionate. Feeling anxious or struggling with avoidance is normal, and beating yourself up only worsens things. Self-compassion creates a supportive buffer that can help you progress past old anxiety patterns.


Avoidance may provide temporary relief from anxiety, but it traps you in a cycle of escalating fear. Confronting anxiety through CBT and ERP can empower you to break free from this cycle and regain control over your life. It’s a challenging journey, but the rewards are worth it—freedom from anxiety and the ability to thrive despite life’s uncertainties.

Contact our Denver office to request a free consultation and discuss treatment options.

How Avoidance Fuels Anxiety