Many people who abuse substances are trying to cope with something, whether stress, anxiety, trauma, low self-esteem or unwanted thoughts and emotions. However, there are many other unhealthy coping mechanisms, aside from drugs and alcohol. It’s important to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy coping strategies, as getting sober involves far more than just quitting substances.
Let’s look closer at the seven most unhealthy coping mechanisms that people use to respond to difficult experiences.
1. Substance Abuse
First on our list is substance use, including drug, alcohol and prescription drug consumption. While these substances may provide temporary relief, they do not treat substance use disorders. Instead, drugs and alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of mental illness and lead to addiction. Addiction also has many negative consequences, including strained relationships, financial problems, and poor physical health.
2. Negative Self-Talk
Most of us engage in negative self-talk at certain times, but it can become a problem if you constantly criticize or put yourself down. Reinforcing negative thoughts about yourself can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and further distress. Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective way to avoid negative self-talk, which includes overgeneralization, all-or-nothing thinking and jumping to conclusions.
3. Avoidance and Denial
Another unhealthy way to cope with challenges is by avoiding them or denying they exist. Denial is a common defense mechanism that allows you to minimize the problem or pretend like you don’t have to address it. Denial is especially common with substance use – many people believe they don’t have a problem or that their problem isn’t as bad as people think. However, you can’t grow in your recovery if you avoid your problems. Healing starts from within.
Self-harm, such as cutting or burning oneself, is a particularly unhealthy coping mechanism. Although it may appear to offer temporary relief and control, it can end up causing emotional turmoil and severe physical injuries. Engaging in self-harm also prevents you from addressing your underlying problems. It’s important that you seek immediate help if self-harm is an issue.
5. Emotional Eating
Some people engage in emotional or binge eating to cope with uncomfortable situations and emotions. They may restrict calories, providing the illusion of self-control, or allow themselves to overeat to cope with painful experiences. However, emotional eating quickly becomes a destructive cycle that produces feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred.
6. Social Isolation
If you choose to isolate yourself from friends and family, you are doing yourself a disservice. Withdrawing from social interactions can cause you to feel alone and disconnected from others, leaving more time to engage in negative self-talk. You need nourishing relationships to heal and grow, as well as recover from substance use and mental health disorders.
7. Excessive Screen Time
It’s also worth noting that too much screen time can be a problem. Some people indulge in social media, mobile games, online shopping, etc. to avoid their thoughts and feelings. It’s difficult to say what too much screen time is, as each person is different, and not all time spent online is bad. In fact, you can use social media for meaningful social interactions, especially when you can’t make it to a meeting. But, it’s important to be mindful of how you’re using your screen time.
Discover Healthy Ways to Cope
If you are trapped in a cycle of unhealthy coping mechanisms or have developed an addiction, you may need professional help. Awakenings Treatment Center is a holistic healing center that offers various therapies that instill healthy coping skills. CBT is especially helpful because it teaches people how to identify and challenge harmful thoughts and behaviors. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment services and how we can help you become a healthier person all around!