A is for Avoidance.
Avoidance is the act of keeping away from something, a fitting action then to the fear that demand evokes. When a person avoids something they go out of their way to make sure they don’t go near the thing, to not think about the thing, to not feel the thing or the emotions it represents.
It makes sense that people who have phobias will avoid the trigger as much as they can, the same for people who have PTSD. If you know someone you don’t like you’ll try to avoid them, if there’s a shop you had an embarrassing incident in you’ll avoid entering that shop, if you ate some food which made you sick then you’d avoid eating that food again, it’s instinctive, it’s human, it’s necessary for survival.
Except our brains aren’t always able to tell the difference between a danger and something that’s safe. It’s why some children refuse to try new foods. It’s why we feel anxious when going to new places. It’s why people get scared of things that don’t make any sense, like a fear of flowers or a fear of buttons.
PDA people experience anxiety or fear about a wide variety of things, and so they try to avoid them. School is scary, let’s not go. That party I really want to go to is unpredictable and I don’t know who will be there, let’s avoid it. That sandwich doesn’t look like it normally does, I can’t eat it. When we get scared, we avoid. Makes sense.
So what form does avoidance take? Because for PDA people, it isn’t just about not going near whatever makes them anxious. Avoidance takes many form, especially in children where it’s harder to just walk away. There’s ignoring, refusal to acknowledge, drowning out, changing the subject, distraction, switching off, creating a fantasy world, taking control, destroying/damaging, distancing oneself, lashing out, turning others against themselves, running away/bolting, shutting down etc. All of these avoidance tactics serve to avoid whatever is creating the negative feelings, it’s a defence mechanism against the world. Most PDA people will start with the natural ones, ignoring, refusal, avoiding, walking away. If those aren’t affective then they move onto the next lot of avoidance tactics by pushing others away, withdrawing into fantasy. If those don’t work either then the person may become difficult, using defence tactics to create distance between them and others ‘if people don’t like me they won’t ask me to do things’ ‘they’ll leave me alone’. If eve those don’t work then they may become aggressive, lashing out verbally and physically, also known as a panic attack.
Avoidance. It’s annoying and disruptive, especially for the PDA person. They want to do the same things as everybody else. No one wants to live in fear of brushing their teeth or saying ‘hi’ to a friend. But they do, we do. It’s difficult for people to understand when they haven’t gone through it themselves. Everything can be scary to a PDA person, we feel like we have to avoid everything. How can you avoid going to the toilet? How can you avoid eating? How can you avoid breathing? How can you avoid swallowing? Ask a PDA person, no doubt they’ll have tried at least once in their life.
A is for Avoidance.
Yes, you can get avoidance around avoiding a demand. Ironic, no?