Monday, April 23, 2012

Research Avoidance Disorder

I recently discovered that there is a mental health condition called, Avoidant Personality Disorder "in which a person has a lifelong pattern of feeling very shy, inadequate, and sensitive to rejection." (PubMed Health) The idea that avoidance would be at the root of a person's mental suffering intrigued me because avoidance is something we see a lot of in the library -- particularly at this time of year when exegetical papers and masters theses are due. So, I thought I would have some fun and use the PubMed A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia format to describe the phenomenon.


Research Avoidance Disorder

Research disorder - avoidant
Last reviewed: April 23, 2012.
Research Avoidance Disorder is a condition in which a person has a feeling of being overwhelmed, ill equipped or inadequate due to failure in estimating the time and skills required to complete a research assignment.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Research disorders are patterns of behavior that cause problems with academic success and scholarly communication. It is commonly recognized when it is too late for effective treatment.

About 90% of the population has Research Avoidance Disorder. Both males and females have the condition equally. The cause is unknown.


People with Research Avoidance Disorder can't seem to start thinking about their research assignments. They pursue activities that do not require them to think about the research problem. Completing such assignments is so overwhelming or distasteful that these people will choose to wait until effective research strategies are impossible to employ and panic becomes the motivating factor.

Signs and tests

A person with Research Avoidance Disorder may:
  • Avoid activities that enable the research process, such as visiting the library
  • Be easily distracted by trivial ideas, activities, or images such as Tumblr (This is a test. If you click here, you should seek professional help immediately.)
  • Spend time in other unrelated distasteful responsibilities such as doing laundry
  • Overestimate their ability to quickly find relevant resources
  • Be overly confident in the reliability of technology
  • Underestimate their personal needs such as sleep 


Prevention is the best option. Going to the library long before the paper is due and beginning the initial exploratory query to get some ideas is highly recommended. But in the cases when avoidance is already present, the sooner treatment is sought, the lower the risk of permanent damage. 

Time management in combination with a reference interview is considered to be the most effective treatment for this condition.

"A reference interview is a conversation between a librarian and a library user in which the librarian responds to the user's initial explanation of his or her information need by first attempting to clarify that need and then by directing the user to appropriate information resources." (Wikipedia)

However, in lieu of allotting enough time to searching appropriate databases and seeking professional assistance, a combination of caffeine and impending deadlines has been known to produce limited results.

Expectations (prognosis)

People with this disorder may develop some ability to apply lessons learned from past experiences and can improve with treatment.


Without treatment, a person with Research Avoidance Disorder may become resigned to a life of near or total academic failure. They may go on to develop a second disorder such as depression.

Calling your information professional

See your professor or a librarian immediately if you are feeling overwhelmed by your research assignment and are in need of direction.


NOTE: This is a completely fictional "disorder" and is not defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV. However, please seek professional help from a librarian if you are concerned that this is disorder describes you!

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