A is for Avoidance.

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?


Sons, Sand & Sauvignon

5 thoughts on “A is for Avoidance.”

  1. My husband has PDA (although, not diagnosed). It wasn’t until after my sister was diagnosed with ASD and then Tyger (my son) was diagnosed that I realised my husband (and I) are almost certainly on the spectrum but as soon as I read about PDA (after it cropping up in a TV show I watched and me thinking Tyger might fall under the term) it made perfect sense for Wolf (husband).

    I used to think it was weird that someone who ordinarily seemed so confident and kind and capable could get so funny about doing certain things but now it all makes sense. Meeting new people, doing things around the house, even – like you mention – cleaning his teeth can all seem like demands and things he *needs* to avoid sometimes. He can’t help the fact he feels that anxiety and now I know it *is* anxiety it’s much easier for me to deal with than when I thought he was just being awkward/stubborn! I know how to frame things so they seem like less of a demand now and I know when to just leave it altogether.


  2. You have described my daughter perfectly! I do so wish I’d known about PDA 10 years ago… might have been able to get her some appropriate help inside our education system, instead of being forced to take her out of school.

  3. This is so interesting. Hayden has been diagnosed but where on the spectrum he sits has been too difficult to tell at this stage, I really feel like you have just described him to a tee! Thank you for enlightening me! Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday lovely, hope you join me again this week xx

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