People who suffer from mental illness turn to safety seeking measures. Those with anxiety even hide for days at a time to avoid interaction with others.

I am in my safe place again and for now, I feel better. Unfortunately, my escape is not healthy. I know this, but it’s taking quite a bit of willpower to convince myself to step out of my comfort zone. I don’t like the outside world, for the most part, and for me, my safety seeking behavior is routine…comforting – I like it.

Unveiling safety seeking behavior

For some people who read this, you may find safety seeking behavior as odd and freakish. It’s okay. I am used to enduring the backlash when my behavior is revealed for what it really is.

To those like me, take comfort because you are not alone, but take another look at your behavior as well and accept another truth. It’s just not good for you.

And again, for those who think they may know one of us or think someone they love may be indulging in this behavior, here are a few signs to be sure.

1. Distrustful

Many of us have what you call, “trust issues”, but in truth….yeah, we don’t trust you. To be honest, many of us who suffer from anxiety have endured troubled childhoods and traumatic pasts which make it incredibly hard to trust others. So, we turn to safety seeking to help us cope with this distrust.

If you notice someone you love having a hard time with trust, consider their avoidance as a safety seeking tactic. It’s not healthy, but it keeps them from having to face people they do not trust. They will make excuses and feign sickness to avoid having their trust being broken again.

2. Inquisitiveness

Surprisingly, those who use unhealthy safety seeking strategies also ask a lot of questions as well. Here is why they do that. The more questions we ask, the more we know about any given situation and the safer it seems for us. We do not like surprise social events AT ALL, so don’t do it.

Whenever you talk about an upcoming social event, pay attention to the plethora of questions that we ask you. This is a huge indicator that we suddenly feel uncomfortable and need desperately to weed out the “bad things” from the upcoming social event.

Remember, we want to feel safe all the time.

3. The shutdown

When anxiety gets really tough, we just shut down, shut you out and avoid, avoid, and avoid. Get it? Because to us, our safety is our number one priority. Nothing is better than our designated sanctuary where we can fall apart and put ourselves back together.

If your loved one is avoiding you like the plague, sleeping a lot or just curled in a ball with a book, leave them alone for a while.

Just understand one thing, this is an unhealthy safety seeking technique, no matter how much we love to practice this.

4. Appetite changes

We can either gorge ourselves with food or starve ourselves. Either way, we seek safety in our eating habits. Even those who haven’t previously endured an eating disorder will exhibit signs of this during safety seeking. Food can be comforting against the things we consider threats. Lack of food can also be comforting to some of us.

Pay close attention to our eating habits. If we exhibit “out-of-character” eating habits then we could be using our own little comforting strategies. Sometimes these strategies we use to help anxiety can turn into serious eating disorders with their own set of coping mechanisms. Yes, it’s complicated…but real.

5. Self-harm

As painful as it may seem, cutting or otherwise harming yourself is also a form of safety seeking. It’s used to find comfort during incredible psychological pain. For others, this behavior is hard to understand, but to us, it just makes sense.

If you notice fresh scars or strange behavior, your loved one could be partaking in self-harm. This must be addressed IMMEDIATELY. This unhealthy safety seeking behavior can become a deadly one.

6. Excuses

This one goes hand and hand with avoidance and the like. People like me who suffer from anxiety will use every excuse they can think of to avoid situations, people, or places.

If I have an aversion to something or someone, I can actually become nauseated, so I make excuses quickly to feel better. Excuses have soothed my sickness and regulated my heart rate because of the severe panic I have experienced at the mere sound of someone’s name.

If you notice excuses being made at the mention of certain places or people, then you are witnessing safety seeking behavior at its most covert. You will know for sure when there is always an excuse for the same list of situations or people.

To the anxious and the ones who love them

Listen, I do not, under any circumstances, advocate this type of behavior. I know what I do is wrong when I avoid everything and everyone. I have an illness, and every day is filled with opportunities to use unhealthy safety seeking. I accomplish this, unfortunately.

What I would like to say is, “Thank you”…”Thank you to the ones who have supported us and kept trying, time after time, to help us learn how to face our fears”.

Although we fail so much at this, we aren’t giving up either. Just letting you know we appreciate your love and devotion.

To those who suffer with me, let’s try a little hard. Let’s just take one step at a time.

Eventually, we will reclaim what was stolen from us.



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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. AMY Lou Byers

    Really appreciate this article. This is me to a T.

    1. Sherrie

      Thank you, Amy, for reading. Until I came to Learning Mind, there were many things I did not understand. Thanks to what I have learned here, I am learning how to be a healthier me. I am dealing with demons that I didn’t even know existed. This one also speaks to me as well. It pulls the veil off my darkness.

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