Coping mechanisms are an integral part of our lives that let us continue functioning and deal with life’s problems. Whether it’s anger, grief, stress, trauma, or even anxiety, we all have ways of coping with challenges. However, not all coping mechanisms are good. Sometimes, they can be very unhealthy and will have consequences later on in life.

What are Coping Mechanisms?

A coping mechanism is a type of behavior that someone engages in to try and protect or insulate them from psychological damage resulting from a problem in life. Coping mechanisms can be either adaptive or maladaptive.

Healthy coping mechanisms are also known as adaptive coping mechanisms. This is a type of behavior that deals with problems in life in a healthy way by reducing stress and harm to oneself. Maladaptive coping mechanisms, on the other hand, are a behavior that’s typically associated with self-destruction.

Maladaptive coping mechanisms, on the other hand, are tricky to avoid as they are usually associated with short-term solutions and are usually related more or less to addiction. This is a lot more common since people usually look for easy short-term solutions, which is usually the case for maladaptive coping mechanisms. What makes them unhealthy is the harm they can do to the person in the long term.

Coping mechanisms are usually categorized into several types: meaning-focused, social coping, problem-focused, and emotion-focused.

● Meaning-focused: These behaviors work to determine what the problem or source of
distress means. After finding the problem’s meaning, they will adjust their perspective
or feelings to help deal with the solution.
● Problem-focused: These are behaviors that directly confront the source of the
problem. For example, if the person is sick, they would follow the doctor’s advice to
the letter. Even buying medicine in bulk to make sure they take it on time. They would
probably even look for coupons like a synthroid coupon if dealing with thyroid
hormone deficiency.
● Emotion-focused: This relates to behaviors that minimize the negative emotions
caused by the problem. Examples are laughing, joking attitude, affirmations, and
perspective restructuring.
● Social coping: This behavior employs the support of the people around the person to
relieve stress and emotional distress.

What are Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms?

Substance Abuse

Depending on substances to relieve stress and worries can be a very slippery slope. If not confronted immediately, it can lead to habit-forming substance use, or in other words, addiction. The person would then rely on the substance too much whenever they feel stress, grief, flashbacks, etc. Contrary to common belief, substance abuse doesn’t only refer to drugs or alcohol, as it could also be food in general.


When you feel overwhelmed or stressed out by the people around you, it would make sense
just to shut everyone out and isolate yourself. While it can be a huge help for a while, it’s not
viable in the long term because, as humans, we need social connections to thrive. In the long
term, isolation can harm one’s mental and physical health.


Social media has become a very common outlet for stress. However, it can often heap on the stress further rather than eradicating it. Doomscrolling is a habit of browsing the internet, expecting bad news, and being relieved that other people have bigger problems than you.

Jumping to Conclusion

Trying to figure out how to solve the source of your problems is an effective way of managing your problems. However, it is counterintuitive if you suddenly start making quick judgments and constantly thinking of the worst possible scenarios to avoid any kind of emotional pain later on.

This kind of cognitive distortion is unhealthy since it can affect one’s ability to consider positive outcomes. This will prevent them from making fully informed decisions and might even lead to more stress.


Compartmentalizing is a behavior that divides problems into one’s cognition and tries to separate themselves from the problem. In short, it’s to avoid the problem. Several examples of this behavior include toxic positivity, overworking, procrastination, etc.

While it might comfort the person during that short window, problems will only fester if not
solved immediately. Not only that, but the problem might even become more complicated if
the person continues to neglect it, making matters worse when the time comes to confront it.

Final Words

Coping mechanisms are an integral part of human behavior. While some can be effective long-term in a much healthier way, some can be so bad that they can lead to self-destruction through continued use. But with continued self-help and support from friends and family, a person can erase these unhealthy coping mechanisms in exchange for much better and healthier ones.

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