Exercise: Inventory of avoidance and safety behaviour


Avoidance behaviour

When you are struggling with trauma, chances are you will avoid certain things to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event. These can be places, people, smells, objects, sounds and/or activities. It is useful to be aware of this avoidance behaviour, so that you can work on it during the treatment. The list below can help you map out your avoidance behaviour.

  • Smells: beer, perfume, forest, rain, fire, blood.
  • Places: location of the trauma, darkness, being home alone, a specific location.
  • People: men, women, the perpetrator, acquaintances of the perpetrator, groups.
  • Sounds: music, sirens, noise, panting, fireworks, loud bangs.
  • Objects: weapons, car, ashtray.
  • Activities: physical contact (shaking hands, kissing, hugging, standing in a busy queue), sex, driving, cycling, eating.
  • Images: certain films or TV programs, photos, pictures.
  • Other: talking about yourself, talking about the trauma, certain feelings, food

Create a diary entry in NiceDay with the title ‘Avoidance Behaviour’ and write down the things you do to avoid thinking about the traumatic event.

Safety behaviour

In addition to avoidance behaviour, often, there is safety behaviour. This is behaviour you perform to feel safer. A few examples of safety behaviour:

  • Always double checking when locking the door
  • Making sure you can see the whole room
  • Not getting on a train alone
  • Always having medication with you
  • Always having your phone with you
  • Bringing a bottle of water
  • Analysing your surroundings
  • Installing an alarm
  • Always having important phone numbers with you
  • Holding your phone in your hand when walking down the street
  • Entering 112 on your mobile in preparation
  • Doing relaxation exercises during anxious moments
  • Always leaving the light on

Create a diary entry in NiceDay with the title ‘Safety Behaviour’ and write down the things you do to feel as safe as possible.



Keijsers, G. P. J., Van Minnen, A., Verbraak, M., Hoogduin, C. A. L. & Emmelkamp, P., (2017). Protocollaire behandelingen voor volwassenen met psychische klachten.


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