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  • Goksel Doganay

11 Signs of an Anxious-Avoider

By Alice Boyes and reviewed by Michelle Quirk. Psychology Today February 27, 2023


Anxious people come in different types.

Some anxious people respond to anxiety with a fight instinct. They get extra persistent when they're anxious, "like a dog with a bone." They can be unreasonably demanding of themselves and others. They may prioritize poorly because they can't let anything go.

Other anxious people have a freeze instinct when they're anxious. When they're anxious, they get stuck on pause. That's who we'll talk about here—the anxious-avoiders.


Hallmarks of an Anxious-Avoider


  1. You put things off until the last minute.

  2. You don't do step 1 of a task, even though you could, because you're worried about step 5.

  3. Other people often get frustrated by your inaction.

  4. You act in ways that are contrary to your values, e.g., you don't get an item in your home inspected for safety because you get nervous talking to tradespeople.

  5. You avoid buying needed items because you try to avoid talking to salespeople or making decisions.

  6. You avoid things you would enjoy (like vacations, parties, or hosting people for dinner) because you don't want any stress.

  7. "Adulting" (like retirement planning or discussing money) stresses you out.

  8. You rely on a small number of people to help you accomplish tasks.

  9. You gravitate to people who will make decisions or plan for you.

  10. Sequencing many steps in large projects (like planning the steps to clean out a very messy room) stresses you out.

  11. You rely on others for recommendations rather than being prepared to try new things for yourself (like TV shows or restaurants).


If you relate to more than half of these points, you probably fit this type, especially if you don't relate to the "fighter" type of anxious person.

Note that other issues can also underlie what's mentioned here, like neurodiversity, such as having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This can coexist with being an anxious-avoider.


What to Do


  • Establish habits to help chip away at your patterns of avoidance, whatever they are. For example, get a safety inspection or review your finances at the same time each year.

  • Practice, practice, practice. The more you practice non-avoidance, the easier it will get. You'll realize that any small mistakes you make are still better than avoiding.

  • Use self-compassion to reduce the impact of perfectionism.

  • Allow others to call you out on your avoidance, such as if you're deferring decisions to them. Ask others to help you spot your patterns.

  • Do at least one small thing every day that challenges your pattern of avoiding.

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