Experimental avoidance and behavioral disorders: a functional dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1996 Dec;64(6):1152-68. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.64.6.1152.


Syndromal classification is a well-developed diagnostic system but has failed to deliver on its promise of the identification of functional pathological processes. Functional analysis is tightly connected to treatment but has failed to develop testable, replicable classification systems. Functional diagnostic dimensions are suggested as a way to develop the functional classification approach, and experiential avoidance is described as 1 such dimension. A wide range of research is reviewed showing that many forms of psychopathology can be conceptualized as unhealthy efforts to escape and avoid emotions, thoughts, memories, and other private experiences. It is argued that experiential avoidance, as a functional diagnostic dimension, has the potential to integrate the efforts and findings of researchers from a wide variety of theoretical paradigms, research interests, and clinical domains and to lead to testable new approaches to the analysis and treatment of behavioral disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Agoraphobia / complications
  • Agoraphobia / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Panic Disorder / complications
  • Panic Disorder / prevention & control
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Suicide