What is pathological demand avoidance (PDA)?

For individuals with PDA some demands or requests can be overwhelming, and they will often go to extreme lengths to avoid complying with demands. This might mean avoiding instructions or demands from others, or even avoiding their favourite activities and hobbies once they become a demand.  

Demands can be: 

External: a request or demand from someone such as a colleague or boss. 

Internal: a deadline you have set yourself. 

Explicit: a direct demand for an action or responses. 

Implicit: a polite, indirect request or an unsaid expectation. 


The PDA Society have identified key features of PDA. 

Symptoms of PDA include: 
  • resisting and avoiding ordinary demands 
  • using social strategies to avoid demands 
  • obsessive behaviour, often focused on other people 
  • being superficially sociable but lacking depth in understanding 
  • impulsivity 
  • excessive mood swings 

 Some social strategies that are used might be excuses – “I can’t do it today, I’m too tired,” delays – “I’ll do it in 10 minutes” or distracting and changing the conversation. They might like to share long stories or talk for extended periods to avoid the focus on themselves and accountability. To best support someone with PDA it is important to acknowledge the anxiety behind the behaviours and take steps to reduce stresses such as emotional stress, sensory input, and fear of uncertainty/change. 

If you or your employee has pathological demand avoidance and you are seeking further support then take a look at our Access to Work programme which can offer ongoing workplace coaching to your employee.

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