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Avoidance vs. Distractions: What's the difference?

Ever wondered if you are coping by avoiding or distracting; well, our fantastic therapist, Dane Fleischhacker has provided great illustrations of both:


Your friends have been messaging to invite you out. The thought of having to put on something other than pajamas and leaving the house to see others makes you so anxious that you cannot even think of what to respond, but you also genuinely want and need to get out of your house and see people. You decide not to respond to your friends and hope that they won’t notice that you disappear from the group chat whenever discussions about getting together start up.

Avoidance is the unwillingness to experience an unwanted feeling at anytime, and it can provide us with comfort in our ability to escape situations which evoke these unwanted feelings. Unfortunately, Avoidance can often become problematic as discomfort and unwanted feelings are a necessary part of our lives, and it is rare that consistently avoiding our feeling will lead to a healthy resolution.


You are the first to arrive at the restaurant. You sit down at the table, and the longer you wait alone, the more awkward you feel. You now notice how your awkwardness is all you can think about, and you start to feel the panic coming on. You slide out your phone and start scrolling for a few minutes, until you manage calm down and continue waiting for your friends to arrive.

Distraction is the effort to regulate an unwanted feeling at an inconvenient time so that you can address the unwanted feeling when an appropriate opportunity arises. Distraction is a healthy technique for coping with stressful situations, which allows a person to take a break until they can better manage the stressful situation.

If you would like to learn more about distraction and avoidance, bolster your healthy distraction coping techniques, or how to address avoidant behaviour please reach out to the clinicians at Open Skies Therapy and we would be happy to assist you in achieving your goals.

Dane Fleischhacker, RSW

Open Skies Therapy

2168 McIntyre St. Regina, SK


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