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“Why don’t people just get over it?”

The answer to this very sensible question rests upon the way people attempt to cope with their symptoms and there are both adaptive and maladaptive ways to.

Adaptive methods improve functioning, while maladaptive methods do not. Unfortunately, many of the maladaptive coping strategies are highly effective in reducing symptoms, at least in the short-term. Unfortunately, the result is to increase dysfunction by maintaining and strengthening the disorder.

The following five unhealthy coping mechanisms are used but at an extremely high cost to our souls and long-term wellbeing.

1. Avoiding the problem

The most common coping strategy is called anxious avoidance. This coping strategy refers to a person who continually avoids a situation because they are afraid. Unfortunately, the fear will most likely be maintained and even strengthened if a person does not confront their fear, despite the immediate sense of relief at the avoidance in the anxiety-provoking situations. An avoidance coping strategy serves to maintain disorders because the person never has the opportunity to learn that they can tolerate their disorder e.g. anxiety.

Unfortunately, the strategy of avoidance is successful in the sense that it temporarily “takes away” the unpleasant experience. To make matters worse, avoidance eliminates opportunities for individuals to learn how to tolerate, to master, or to overcome the fear-producing situation or the faulty beliefs associated with the situation/s.

2. Isolation

Isolation allows us to protect our own self-representation by keeping ourselves clueless about flaws and missteps. With isolation can come projection blaming, for example, in which others are accused of the flaws you secretly fear you possess. Denial may be used in which negative emotions are pushed out of awareness, and cutting off others completely seems the best way to recover but the feeling of loneliness increases. Feeling lonely isn’t in itself a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem increases chances of feeling lonely, and feeling lonely can have a negative impact on mental health. Although most people need some kind of social contact to maintain good mental health, everyone has different social needs. Some may be content with a few close friends, whilst some may need a large group of varied acquaintances to feel satisfied.

3. Underestimating and overthinking

Our self-worth can take a turn for the worse whilst we’re scrambling to help ourselves, this can be in the form of externalising our self-worth by trying too hard to prove oneself, putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the best and allowing others to define our worth. These faulty cognitions can result us going to ultimate lows in thoughts as well as creating a loop of negativity which becomes hard to break

4. Excessive/impulsive eating, drinking, spending

Something easy to fall into is excessively doing something such as binge-eating, drinking, taking drugs, gambling, and compulsive spending. These are all ways people try to fill themselves through guilty pleasures and substituting practicality over base desires. Overdoing these actions can lead to addictions and can create further physical and emotional burden on oneself and surrounding individuals – although it provides an immediate sense of control and relief at a stressful situation, the health risks and financial implications are immense.

5. Emotional driven behaviours

Letting our emotions control our reality is not always the way to go yet it’s easy to succumb to for many as it brings a high risk, quick fix sensation. This can involve getting those adrenaline highs by driving too fast, being violent or maybe even promiscuous, yet the consequences are dangerous as it is self-sabotage, creates an imbalanced lifestyle and can involve getting angry at others, especially loved ones as well as dealing with the financial/moral stresses, adding to the issue trying to be alleviated.

So, we’ve focused on ways we should avoid to cope, now what?

Everyone copes in different ways but there can be healthier habits to the way we cope. It takes learning and time to get better at coping better but know that you are worth it, and so is your recovery, however difficult it may feel. Find something beneficial like being in nature, performing prayer and meditation or get into exercise for healthier adrenaline highs, being creative, cooking, starting any hobby which needs concentration, and where you can express your feelings instead of blocking it all, avoiding or substituting. Stay tuned this month to find out more about coping mechanisms.

Why not share something unhealthy that you used to do and the healthy thing you have replaced it with?

Hamida Moulvi

Hamida has a BSc (Hons) Psychology degree, having studied modules concerning Emotions and Mental Health. She is passionate about giving back to the community as it is important to benefit others - every little helps, in inspiring changes and raising awareness, especially within Muslim communities where many cultures can believe mental health isn't a real problem. She has a love for the way Islam guides, inspires and heals (HasbunAllahu w ni'mal wakeel) and is also interested in languages, being multilingual. She believes words have a powerful impact whether that be in written or spoken form, and that we are all here to learn, implement and share so helping write articles would achieve this also.

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