Adult Coping Strategies For PDA

As an adult I have developed many different strategies and coping skills to help manage the more difficult elements of my PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance). Some of these strategies I've learnt to adopt and others have come naturally to me, even before I knew what PDA was.

As an adult I have developed many different strategies and coping skills to help manage the more difficult elements of my PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance). Some of these strategies I've learnt to adopt and others have come naturally to me, even before I knew what PDA was. Now that I understand my difficulties better, I can see which skills I have developed that have helped me growing up, and I can better utilise them now I know why I do them and how they work. What follows is a list of the strategies and skills I've developed. They may help PDA kids and/or adults or they may not, they work for me but every individual is different and so what works for one may very well have the opposite effect for others.

Role play - many PDA people use role play as a way of coping, especially with demands. Parents may find their child is more able to follow instructions and suggestions when they are role playing a character. I myself have found chores easier when pretending I am being filmed for TV. I adopt a character (say, a cleaner) and pretend I am doing a job for TV. I'll imagine cameras following me everywhere, watching what I'm doing and imagine that people are asking me questions or commenting on my actions. I'll run an entire conversation in my head, and get the dishes done at the same time. I also found this useful during university, I would pretend I was being filmed completing my coursework, this certainty helped me pass many grades.

Doing the opposite - I find if I need to do a task, say, have a shower, I will tell myself I don't need to have a shower. My brain will then think 'no we are having one' and then I will be able to take a shower. My brain sees doing things as dangerous, as something to avoid, so telling my brain not to do something will often result in my brain making me do it so as to avoid a perceived threat. The PDA brain cannot differentiate between real and perceived danger.

"You don't have to" - I've found that by giving myself an 'out' then it is much easier to meet demands, because I know I can change my mind whenever I want. I'll tell myself "you don't have to if you don't want to". This works quite well as my brain doesn't feel pressured into a task.

Avoidance - one way to meet small demands is to order myself to complete a bigger demand instead. This won't work for everyone. I will tell myself to make a dentist appointment if the dishes need washing, then I will find myself avoiding the phone call by doing the dishes. The phone call demand will become harder to meet though and this needs to be taken into consideration when using this tactic. So far I've been trying to make that phone call for the past two years, but I've done plenty of dishes.

Not thinking - this is one I discovered as an adult and is fairly difficult to adopt. Our minds are always thinking about stuff so trying not to think about a demand that demands our attention is hard work. However I find that if I am able to distract my thoughts from the task I am better able to actually get the job done. This works for getting out of bed, it used to take me hours to get up. I would get more and more worked up because I needed to get up but the pressure made it harder and harder, my body would freeze so I couldn't move at all. I found that by not thinking of getting up at all my body would automatically move of its own accord. It's a bit like when you're walking somewhere but are distracted, by the time you remember to pay attention to where you are going you realise you've gotten to where you wanted to go without even realising it, it's a bit like that.

My choice - it's difficult to take demands from other people. I've come to realise that by making it my choice to do what others ask of me it makes it a lot easier to do what they ask. So when someone asks me to pass them something I think 'I'm only doing this because I want to, not because you've asked me to'. It works. It does breed a bit of resentment though.

Having some control - another way to cope with other people's demands is to think 'fine, but I'm not going to be happy about it' or 'I'm not doing it your way though, I'll do it how I want to do it'. This helps me cope as I have some control over how I do a demand as opposed to whether I do the demand.

Excuses - people would be surprised at the range of excuses I can give for avoiding or putting off a demand. This is very useful for times when demands are sprung on me and I don't have the ability to meet them straight away. By delaying them I can wait until I am better equipped to do the demand, rather than struggling with it straightaway.

Making a list - similar to the avoidance tactic. I will make a list of things I need to do that day and then avoid them all, thus completing a whole different list of demands that also needed doing but were deliberately being ignored. Result!

Taking it easy - I try not to meet too many demands in one day. It really does depend on how I am feeling that day too. In general I will start each day with just one demand in mind (obviously I'm not including eating, dressing, talking etc, by demand I mean big demands like chores). Some days the demand will be simple because I know I don't have the energy to deal with a big one (taking a shower) and other days I'll have a bigger demand because I feel better (phoning someone, cleaning a room). The aim of this is to not avoid all demands, although I'm not too hard on myself if I can't manage the demand for that day. But hopefully by only having one demand in mind I might manage to do more without pressurising myself beforehand. I also take breaks in between each demand and find easy, fun things to do scattered throughout the day. This makes it easier to manage because I know there are times when I don't have to do anything at all. If I manage nothing then I accept that and take it easy on myself, life is hard, no need to make it harder by beating myself up about it.

Deciding not to - I go to quite a few groups and social events along with needing to do shopping and other outdoor activities. Every time I feel anxiety beforehand and feel like I want to stay at home and hide. I have had many meltdowns before a big social event, even a meal out with friends causes a meltdown. Sometimes I'll decide not to go, this means I either don't go or the anxiety is immediately removed and minutes before the time for leaving I may change my mind and go anyway. This helps a lot because it removes the anxiety. I know some parents have mentioned how their kids have struggled so much leading up to an event and the relief they feel when the event is cancelled - they say it's like they wanted someone else to decide for them not to go. Yes, we want to go but the anxiety becomes so big that it feels better to be told we can't go, especially since that is often a decision we cannot make ourselves.

Mixing it up a little - regular demands, things like showering, eating, getting dressed, etc can become so stressful that we avoid the activity completely. I have found that by introducing something new or mixing it up a little can actually help. PDA people prefer novelty, there's less anxiety sometimes around something new as we don't know what to expect. It sounds contrary but it's true, new is less anxiety-producing than old. When I feel myself avoiding daily activities I will do something to change the activity, even a little. I may buy new bath products, try new foods or eat out, buy new clothes or try a different fashion style. Anything that changes the demand, even moving the demand to a different time of day can help. Showering before bed for instance or having cereal for dinner. For me, change is good.

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