Mind: What Are coping Mechanisms?

   To "cope" means to come to terms with or deal with successfully. Therefore a coping mechanism is a way of enabling a person to successfully deal with difficult situations or circumstances. Coping mechanisms can also be described as “survival skills” a term which refers to the methods or strategies that people adopt to deal with life experiences that cause stress, pain or trauma.

Coping mechanisms are learned patterns of behaviour that we have adopted to enable us to cope with the emotions that are triggered by life’s experiences. As our behaviours result from the way we handle our emotions, they can be either negative or positive. Coping mechanisms therefore, can either be negative or positive.

Types of coping mechanisms
In the arena of Psychology, coping mechanisms can be categorised in the following ways:
1. Defence mechanism
2. Action based
3. Emotion based
4. Harmful

Defence mechanisms are ways to cope which people use unconsciously to overcome stress and challenges. They are also used when an individual is experiencing stress.

Action-based coping mechanisms involves an active approach to problem-solving the situations that cause stress. For example, in dealing with the financial challenges associated with redundancy, an action-based coping mechanism may be to reduce expenditure by cutting down on luxury items when shopping and eating out at restaurants. Action based coping includes planning, suppression, self-control and restraint.

Emotion-based coping mechanisms enable an individual to reduce stress by acknowledging the emotions that have been triggered. These types of coping mechanisms may be negative or positive for example denial, rationalisation, repression, relaxation and humour. Although these ways of coping do not directly deal with the stressful situation, they assist in calming emotions which can then be addressed by applying action based coping mechanisms.

Harmful coping mechanisms can occur with overuse of a coping mechanism and have a negative, often detrimental impact upon an individual such as: illegal drug and alcohol use, depression, violence, self harm, nail biting and hair-pulling.

Other ways of categorising coping mechanisms are as follows:
Mental responses: such as aggressive thoughts, "I can’t do this I am useless".
Emotional responses: feelings of fear, anger, sadness, fright.
Physical responses: heart beating faster, headaches, stomach ache.
Behavioural responses: drinking, over-eating, self harm, isolating self.

Described above are a range of coping mechanisms that an individual may use on a day to day basis. Being aware of the methods of coping that we adopt can assist us in identifying whether their affects are beneficial or harmful. This type of awareness can enable us to learn and explore positive ways to manage our lives i.e. thinking and planning before acting.

* violence and abuse (attacking physically, verbally, mentally, spiritually)* grounding skills (stay focused, use all five senses)
* acting out (misbehave on purpose)* manage stress
* being passive (not trying to cope, always in situation where he/she is the victim )* manage anger (deep breathing)
* addictions (alcohol, drugs, solvents, medications, gambling, etc) * get to know self
* minimizing (things are not that bad)* seek support from friends and family
* rationalizing (he/she did not know better)* communication (talk about our feelings)
* denial (there is no problem)* physical activity (healthy sexual relationships)
* repression (forgetting)* healthy eating habits
* developing a ‘false self’ (behaving like someone who you are not) * healthy sleeping habits learn patience
* disassociate self from situation (spacing out, thinking not feeling) * respect others (their choices, we can not change anybody)
* controlling behaviour* learn acceptance
* becoming a workaholic (stay busy to avoid feeling)* learn forgiveness
* running away (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) * crying, laughing, yelling in a safe place
* self harm, suicide attempts * trust
* isolating self and withdrawal* read, expand your knowledge
* lying, blaming others (irresponsible)* be open-minded
* manipulating* journal (write things down, doodle) spend quality time with family, partner
* depression* positive self talk build or create something
* not communicating* become involved in community events
* watch movies, listen to music
* play with pet

© hopecalls.org, 2013 (all rights reserved)

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