Do You Have Any Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms?

A man with his head placed on a table with a glass of alcoholic spirit.

Alcohol consumption is a common coping mechanism used to avoid difficult situations. (Image: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz via Dreamstime)

Let’s look at coping mechanisms. Do you frequently watch television or binge-watch TV shows when stressed and unsure of how to cope? Do you ever lash out at people, or does your brain become stormy when stress or anxiety hits you?

For Melbourne’s northern, western, and central districts, gambling, alcohol, and substance misuse are severe concerns. Most individuals know that drugs, alcohol, and gambling may all be harmful if consumed or indulged in excess. Nonetheless, they remain issues across the area.

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The question is why so many individuals continue to engage in this behavior while knowing it is detrimental. Let’s dive deeper into the subject.

What exactly are coping mechanisms?

A coping mechanism is a behavior a person uses to shield themselves from psychological harm caused by a life difficulty.

Coping mechanisms can be either good or bad. Indeed, you may have heard the terms good, unhealthy, or destructive coping mechanisms. These behaviors are classified as adaptive or maladaptive by mental health practitioners.

A stressed woman with massaging her temples.
A coping mechanism is a behavior a person uses to shield themselves from psychological harm. (Image: Fizkes via Dreamstime)

A good, adaptable, or healthy coping mechanism is one in which the coping behavior results in the problem being addressed, or at the very least dealt with, in a way that decreases stress and harm.

A dysfunctional, maladaptive, unhealthy, or harmful coping mechanism is one in which the behavior does not fix the problem in the long run and may even worsen the situation. In the short term, unhealthy coping mechanisms may appear to have the desired impact.

When confronted with stressful conditions, humans use various coping strategies. Below are a few of the most frequent.

Types of unhealthy coping strategies

There are several types of unhealthy coping strategies. Nine major strategies are stated below:

  1. Alcohol use outside of socially appropriate situations and or large quantities on a regular basis.
  2. Drug misuse, particularly when depended upon for dealing with challenges rather than facing our issues and working through them with a sober mindset.
  3. Anger or aggressive behavior — Because anger is a normal human emotion that everyone feels from time to time, anger here refers to behavior that is potentially destructive and harmful to relationships, careers, physical health, and so on.
  4. Eating junk food over a ‘normal’ degree of indulgence.
  5. Gambling more than what is socially acceptable in terms of amount and frequency.
  6. Spending and purchasing more than what is required to fulfill personal requirements and occasional pleasures.
  7. Self-harm causes physical harm to one’s body.
  8. Video games, if the quantity of time spent playing conflicts with family, social, and job obligations.
  9. Addiction to smoking.

The examples above are generalizations, and it is crucial to note that no two people’s situations are the same.

A man covering his eyes, mouth and ears with his hands. Signifying the use of coping mechanisms to avoid suffering.
(Image: Otmar Winterleitner via Dreamstime)

Types of unhealthy coping mechanisms

There are several types of unhealthy coping mechanisms, here are some of the most common:

  • Acting out: entails not coping but succumbing to peer pressure to misbehave (especially in children).
  • Avoidance: the mental or physical avoidance of possible causes of stress.
  • Denial: the refusal to accept the situation.
  • Displacement: the relocation of an intended activity to a more secure destination.
  • Dissociation: the separation of oneself from aspects of one’s life.
  • Distancing: separating yourself from the problem.
  • Outbursts and strong emotions: examples of emotional trauma.
  • Fantasy: the escape from reality into a world of potential.
  • Refusing help: entails requesting but rejecting assistance.

Types of healthy coping mechanisms

There are also many coping mechanisms that are considered healthy, here are some more common examples:

  • Adaptation: the ability of humans to adjust to various environments.
  • Aim inhibition: lowering one’s ambitions to what appears to be more feasible.
  • Altruism: is defined as helping others to help themselves.
  • Separation: the suppression of ideas and feelings to prevent mental distress.
  • Overplaying one’s skills in one area to compensate for one’s flaws.
  • Conversion: the subconscious transformation of stress into bodily symptoms.
  • Crying: tears of relief and longing for comfort.
  • Identification is the act of imitating others to take on their qualities.
A woman embracing the sun, with her arms wide open.
(Image: Microgen via Dreamstime)

Moving beyond coping mechanisms

While coping mechanisms both good and bad are part of a normal human response to hardship and difficulty, it is best to face issues head-on. Looking within and finding the source of your mental or life anguish can be difficult. This is often why people turn away and resort to various coping methods to avoid unaddressed issues. But to truly grow, you must not avoid your core problems, lest you carry these things wherever you go. It is often the most difficult situations that help you improve the most. If you find yourself stuck using coping mechanisms and feeling helpless, it may be time for a mental health makeover.

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