Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are a person’s way of dealing with the many stressors that life throws our way. Whether it’s anger, grief, or any other negative emotion, we all have ways—some good, some not so good—to deal with our feelings. Read on to learn more about healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

What are Coping Mechanisms?

Coping mechanisms fall into two main categories: adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive or healthy coping mechanisms enable people to resolve problems in their life with methods proven to reduce stress. On the other hand, maladaptive or unhealthy coping mechanisms are attempts to reduce or obliterate negative feelings quickly, but can end up causing harm to oneself and to others over the long haul.

One of the big difficulties in utilizing healthy coping mechanisms in the face of stress is that most people learn how to cope in early childhood. An adult may have grown out of screaming and crying and throwing themselves on the floor when things don’t go their way, but those tendencies might show through in other ways that are just as fruitless.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Sometimes, when a person is motivated to make themselves feel better, they engage in behaviors that offer pleasure or remove them from their feelings of grief or stress or sadness. However, just because these activities might feel good or cathartic in the moment, they can have lasting negative effects. Below are some examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms:

  • Avoidance. Running away from one’s problems might sound like a good idea in the moment, but problems often have a way of following a person, and growing during the interim.
  • Catastrophizing. For some, it is easy to get carried away regarding the significance of a problem. For instance, instead of simply coming to terms with the fact that one’s car is having engine trouble and needs repairs, a person may entertain the possibility that a car with engine problems is further evidence that everyone is out to get them. This is an unhealthy way of maintaining control and can lead to poor, ill-informed decisions.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse. Various stimulants and depressants—some legal, some illegal—are world-famous for the way they numb negative emotions and pain. Of course, the abuse of substances can result in any number of dangers: addiction, overdose, criminal behavior, disease, and death.
  • Impulsive spending. Impulsive spending, also known as “retail therapy,” provides a person with a welcome rush of endorphins upon the point of purchase. However, this can lead to significant financial problems, as well as hoarding and secrets among family members.
  • Overeating. Like substance abuse, overeating numbs people so that they cannot feel their negative feelings. Still, anything over the recommended allowance can result in weight gain and related health issues.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

When feeling anxious, depressed, or fearful, our brains tend to fall back on unhealthy coping mechanisms. However, as many addiction treatment programs have taught and continue to teach, one’s ability to reject unhealthy coping mechanisms in favor of healthy ones is a highly beneficial life skill.

Utilizing one or more of the following healthy coping methods will help you address any mental health challenges in a more positive way:

  • Face up to the problem. Focus on what or who is making you feel this way. Then, without allowing personal emotions any involvement, try to find a solution.
  • Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. Let’s face it, day-to-day living can be tough. It’s important to be able to recognize when certain aspects of living feel overwhelming and, in doing so, reach out to someone else to help lighten the load. By the same measure, relaying your troubles to a trusted someone can help you stay accountable.
  • Participate in a hobby or sport. Creative and athletic outlets for emotions can be hugely stimulating and emotionally beneficial. Taking the time to practice your art or engage in a favorite physical activity also provides perspective you might not otherwise have had while stewing over your problems.
  • Know your triggers. In addiction treatment, medical professionals speak often of addiction triggers—people, places, things, or attitudes that can enter one’s life without warning and make them want to turn to using alcohol or drugs. Find out what triggers you, and how to either avoid it or deal with it in a positive way.

Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms Near West Palm Beach, FL

At Ambrosia Treatment Center, we strive to provide the best care possible to those who have entrusted us with their well-being. This includes not only detox and addiction treatment, but treatment for any co-occurring mental health disorders as well as an array of holistic therapies. Contact us today to learn how we can help you overcome your addiction and live a happier life.

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