"The only real voyage of discovery....consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes'  (O'Brien,1948)

Safety Behaviours

Safety behaviours are what we humans use to keep us safe when we feel that we are at risk. It is part of our survival instinct and in some real life dangerous situations, safety behaviours will save your life. But unfortunately in other situations such as anxiety, depression and low self-worth, safety behaviours keep the problem in place and also worsen the problem over time.


Here are some examples and you can watch the video for further information

Some common safety behaviours are:

  • Avoidance

  • Making excuses/Lying

  • Reassurance seeking

  • Drinking alcohol/Drugs

  • Staying in bed

  • Compulsions/rituals (e.g., Counting)

  • Distraction

  • Safety signals (Such as looking at your phone to avoid looking at people)

  • Self-harm

  • Over-preparing

  • Relying on others

Understandably, when we feel scared we want to do something to help us feel better, as this is human nature and what we are designed to do. But despite this, it is important to remember that safety behaviours only provide short term relief and will keep you stuck in a negative cycle, this is why it is important to work on them.

If you continue to use safety behaviours, you will prevent yourself from ever seeing any other picture other than the one you have created in your mind.

For example: You avoid a party because you are worried that people don’t want you there.

Because you didn’t attend, you will never know how people would have felt about your attendance, so you are left with the conclusion that no one did want you there.

Had you attended the party, you may have had a welcomed greeting from many people.

Next – Watch the safety behaviours video and use the Hierarchy exercise to list your safety behaviours and rate them.