A Behavioral Inhibition System refers to a subsystem of the brain that produces Anxiety and inhibits ongoing Behavior in the presence of novel events, innate Fear stimuli, and signals of non-reward or punishment. A behavioral avoidance (or inhibition) system (BIS) is said to regulate aversive motives, in which the goal is to move away from something unpleasant. Behavioral inhibition system (BIS) is thought to be mediated by the frontal cortex and limbic system.


The Behavioral Inhibition System is a theoretical concept in psychology that refers to a neurobiological system responsible for detecting threats, inhibiting behaviors, and promoting avoidance in response to potential harm. It is part of the broader behavioral approach system, which is responsible for seeking rewards and pursuing goals. Individuals with a highly active Behavioral Inhibition System are more prone to anxiety, fear, and avoidance behaviors. This system is thought to be related to the personality trait of neuroticism and is associated with heightened sensitivity to negative stimuli and a tendency to overestimate potential threats.

Application Areas

  • Clinical psychology
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Behavioral therapy

Treatment and Risks

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Medication (such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications)
  • Risks may include avoidance behaviors, social isolation, and chronic anxiety


  • An individual with a highly active Behavioral Inhibition System may avoid social situations due to fear of judgment or criticism
  • Someone with a phobia of spiders may react with intense fear and avoidance when encountering a spider
  • Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder may exhibit hypervigilance and avoidance of triggers related to their trauma

Similar Concepts and Synonyms

  • Behavioral avoidance
  • Neuroticism
  • Threat sensitivity
  • Behavioral inhibition


The Behavioral Inhibition System is a neurobiological system that detects threats, inhibits behaviors, and promotes avoidance in response to potential harm. It is associated with anxiety, fear, and avoidance behaviors and is thought to be related to neuroticism. Treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication. Risks of a highly active system may include avoidance behaviors and chronic anxiety.