Coping skills are the strategies we use to manage stress. While some coping skills are healthy, others can be maladaptive and damaging to our mental health. It’s important for individuals to be aware of the signs of maladaptive coping so that they can learn healthier ways to deal with stress. Take a look at these common examples of maladaptive coping techniques.
What Is Maladaptive Coping?
Maladaptive coping refers to any behavior used to manage stress and resulting in negative consequences for the individual. Even though these behaviors provide short-term relief, they are maladaptive because they ultimately do not help the person address their problems in a healthy or productive way. Instead, these behaviors often lead to further distress and unhappiness over time. If you don’t address and correct maladaptive coping behaviors, they can lead to comorbid mental health disorders, physical health risks, and other serious consequences.
One type of maladaptive coping is avoidance coping, which involves ignoring or avoiding challenging emotions or situations rather than trying to deal with them head-on. People who engage in avoidance behavior will attempt to steer clear of any situation they deem too stressful or uncomfortable. This ultimately prolongs the problem and leads to long-term emotional distress.
Common examples of avoidance coping include avoiding stressful conversations, procrastinating on assignments, or distracting yourself from your feelings through hobbies, entertainment, or other means. While these behaviors can provide relief and even help you calm down and better regulate emotions, continuous avoidance only serves to make the problem worse in the long run.
Substance abuse is one of the most common examples of maladaptive coping techniques. People may turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to numb the thoughts and feelings that come with difficult situations. In some cases, substance abuse can provide temporary relief from emotional pain, but this is usually followed by a crash in mood and emotional distress. This type of coping technique often leads to addiction and other serious mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
That’s why it’s important to know when substance use is a form of stress relief and when it’s becoming an addictive behavior. The ability to identify a developing addiction helps you address the issue and get the help you need to build healthier coping strategies.