Attempted versus successful avoidance : associations with distress, symptoms, and strategies for mental control
The most widely used measures of avoidance strategies following stressful or traumatic experiences are unidimensional. However, recent work has emphasised the multifactorial nature of avoidance: One intriguing and as yet unexplored distinction is that between attempts at avoidance and successful avoidance. Two studies are reported with the aim of investigating the differential relationships between attempted and successful avoidance and measures of distress and thought control strategies. In the first study 207 participants completed measures of attempted and successful avoidance along with a measure of distress. The results indicated that distress was associated with attempted avoidance but not successful avoidance. In the second study, 143 participants completed measures of attempted and successful avoidance along with measures of thought control strategies and distress. The results of study two replicated those of study one and also found that attempted avoidance was associated with 'punishment' and 'worry' thought control strategies, whereas, successful avoidance was associated with 'social control' strategies. It was concluded that attempts at avoidance that are not successful are maladaptive following stressful or traumatic experiences but successful avoidance is not. These data highlight the importance of identifying and making explicit the distinction between attempted and successful avoidance in future operational definitions. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.