Before I begin this post I would like to start with this PSA:
WE ARE IN QUARANTINE. WE ARE GOING THROUGH A PANDEMIC. HUMANITY IS SUFFERING A MAJOR LOSS. THEREFORE IT IS OKAY TO INDULGE IN CERTAIN COPING MECHANISMS TO SELF-SOOTHE AND MAKE YOURSELF FEEL BETTER.
That is why I have divided this post into two levels: super harmful to not so harmful coping mechanisms.
SUPER HARMFUL COPING MECHANISMS
9. Self Abuse – Verbal and Physical
I don’t want to mention the different types of physical abuse one can indulge in. In most cases, if you have done it or have thought about doing it, you know it’s self abuse.
I would like to mention though self abuse can also be in the form of self talk. If you call yourself stupid, dumb, or worse abusive words on a daily basis, your mind is eventually going to start believing it and it will disintegrate your sense of self, leading to a drop in confidence, rise in anxiety, and depression.
What is self-abuse?
Self abuse refers to deliberately inflicting and causing harm to your body through cutting or self-mutilation or constant verbal abuse. 8% of American teenagers are known to secretly self abuse.
It’s difficult to identify people who self abuse because if the cuts are small enough, it is easy to cover it up by wearing clothes that don’t expose the wounds.
What causes people to self abuse?
There are some common reasons that are found in people who self abuse – inability or difficulty in managing frustration or anger, acute psychosis, difficulty in handling stress or past trauma, self blaming, self loathing etc.
Childhood sexual abuse, self hatred, to express feelings, purification, euphoria, trauma of being bullied, confused sexuality or inappropriate sexual thoughts, to seek attention, inability to form and trust relationships in their life – are some other reasons that cause people to self abuse.
Why do people choose to self abuse?
It serves as a way to express anger and frustration, a way to physically ‘feel’ their emotional pain, to feel anything in cases when individuals feel emotionally disconnected, to dissociate from reality or past i.e to physically create a negative reaction as caused within when they think about past abuse or trauma inflicted on them by others.
What does it mean if people use self abuse as a coping mechanism?
People who choose to self abuse usually suffer from some form of anxiety or depression or could be recovering or living through various forms of trauma such as bullying or sexual abuse.
But a crucial factor that transforms thinking of self abuse to action is when they tend to feel completely alone in the world, i.e. they have no one to share their pain with.
This may be true, certain individuals may not have trustworthy relationships in their lives or they may feel like they don’t want to bother anyone with their thoughts or they might make themselves feel like no one wants to listen to them.
This rejection of self and reality begins in adolescence and if it is not monitored and work through can lead to various forms of self abuse.
8. Drugs and Alcohol
I mean I don’t think I need to list out various types of alcohol and drugs. You know what you are doing.
What does it mean if you are using alcohol or drugs / and drugs as a coping mechanism?
It means that you want to change the way you are currently feeling. You may be going through emotional or physical pain, or any kind of stress and conflict that comes with living your life, and indulging in alcohol or drugs help you forget that.
This is the main reason most adults choose to spend money on alcohol or drugs rather than other things because it helps you forget all the things in life that annoy or upset you.
Everybody has trauma even though it may not look the same.
Dealing with trauma, trauma-inducing thoughts, or memories are common causes for drug or alcohol abuse.
What is the long-term impact of using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism or to self – medicate?
It may help you cope with anxiety or daily stresses for a little bit, but over time, it’s not a very rewarding strategy. It’s a quick fix method that can often lead to alcoholism or drug addiction, which can become deadly.
Drugs and alcohol lower inhibition and which is why you probably do things you would have never done sober. But as time goes by drugs and alcohol reduces your brain’s natural capacity to handle stressful situations and pains. This allows negative emotions to take over and roam freely, leading you to feel unmotivated and depressed quite easily. As your brain’s natural chemical balance goes for a toss, your mental health gets seriously affected and is a common pathway to severe anxiety and depression.
Over time simple things like talking to someone at a party may seem scary and you may start to avoid such situations altogether or you may need a few drinks, puffs, or snorts in your system to even be or enjoy yourself in such situations.
7. Smoking/ Vaping
What does it mean if you use smoking or vaping as a coping mechanism?
Emotion-focused smoking means coping with bodily stress responses to a negative or stressful situation without actually acknowledging or addressing the cause of stress.
Problem-focused stressing such as smoking cessation or stopping yourself from smoking involves more actively engaging with your stressors.
Most people alternate between the two phases.
Coping with stress in this way is usually a socially learned process, either learned from people in life or through media you are exposed to.
But it turns out active smokers tend to feel a heightened sense of stress between smokes. This means that the cigarette adds on to the natural stress that exists in your life, and makes it seem worse than it is because it inhibits your mind’s natural protection against stress.
Essentially this means mo’ cigarettes, mo’ problems. (I may have been listening to a 90s playlist while writing this.)
What is the long-term impact of smoking as a coping mechanism?
Higher emotional stress and physical distress is a non-negotiable symptom, things overwhelm you much easier than they should. Most people assume life is getting worse or blame their problems on external factors, when in fact it’s their coping mechanism that heightens the magnitude of situations.
Performance reduction, becoming inactive in relationships, health is compromised, and it can even lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, strokes, heart problems, chronic headaches, other conditions.
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NOT SO HARMFUL COPING MECHANISMS
6. Distancing and Disassociation
There are times in your life, especially when you are actively working on your self love and personal development that you outgrow certain people and relationships in your life.
But sometimes your mind plays games with you to make you feel worse or distort your reality. This is usually a result of lifelong programming, to think negatively or see the worst in every situation.
What is distancing?
Distancing is the process of putting physical or emotional space between you and people and places that stress you out or cause a negative reaction in your body. It is an effective strategy to avoid physical fights and toxic people, but not so much when what stresses you out can easily be fixed with conversations and taking action.
What is dissociation?
Dissociation refers to a skill most often acquired in childhood, due to trauma, uncomfortable or negative situations, which leads to separation of yourself from your current reality.
What does it mean if you use dissociation as a coping mechanism?
It means it is hard for you to live in your current reality. You would rather live in alternate realities you have created in your head through daydreaming and separation. Dissociation can be practiced at different levels for each person.
I personally have dissociative tendencies, in the sense that I would daily indulge in destination happiness. Due to situations that happened in my past, I would find it easier to distract myself and make myself happy by dreaming up scenarios where my life was better. This would range from having tons of money, to being a movie star to travelling the streets of Paris. Mostly things I couldn’t do today or tomorrow and was far away from the place where I was. I would believe that I could be happy if I attained these dreams, and I would feel happy when I thought about it. I thought it is only now that sucks when I get to do these things my life would be better. This is a dangerous game to play.
Many people who have experienced trauma tend to dissociate themselves from the situation, thinking that didn’t happen to me, that wasn’t me. This is especially true in the case of child abuse.
The following video shows a case of extreme dissociative tendencies:TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ABUSE
She couldn’t come to terms with the horrors that had happened to her that she completely disassociated from her past, and could only access those memories through creating other personalities in her mind.
This video explains Dissociative Identity Disorder in detail.
Dissociation can range from daydreaming to denial. If you find yourself disassociating from your reality more than you should, being sad when you come back to reality, turning to alcohol and drugs to forget memories, that’s when you should check yourself.
If you find that your trauma is bigger than something you can handle, please consider professional help. It will help you deal with your past and rewrite your story in order to attract a more positive future.
Dissociation can be mild and can be a simple coping mechanism or defense mechanism to avoid dealing with your present stress, boredom or conflict. But high cases of dissociation can lead to memory loss, daydreaming while driving, inability to deal with life’s daily stresses.
5. Binge Watching
Binge watching is the most common method of escapism for people.
It would be unfair to call it a millennial problem or a young people problem. Yes our generation created streaming platforms that made it easier to binge-watch but people have been doing it way before that.
Watching infomercials, tv shows, and sports programs for hours on end is a common method of escaping or avoiding your reality.
What does it mean if you use binge watching as a coping mechanism?
Binge watching often means that you are trying to move away from reality and into a life that isn’t yours. It is your way of dealing with daily pressures, stressful situations, and avoiding them at least for a little bit. It’s easy to get caught up in it.
Caution must be practiced to not get too caught up in storylines and plots, as it may lead to paranoia and also to move around as much as possible so that you don’t get a dead butt.
According to health.com,
“Dead butt syndrome develops when the gluteus medius—one of the three main muscles in the booty—stops firing correctly. That can happen if you spend too much time parked in a chair, explains Kristen Schuyten, a physical therapist at Michigan Medicine. “But it can also occur in very active individuals who just don’t engage the glute muscles enough,” she adds.
Since the gluteus medius normally helps stabilize the pelvis, gluteal amnesia can lead to lower back pain and hip pain, as well as knee and ankle issues, as the body tries to compensate for the imbalance.”
I would like to clarify, binge watching isn’t all bad, provided you have the time for it or you have made time for it, before or after completing the other tasks you had to do.
4. Binge Eating
Why do people choose binge eating as a coping mechanism?
Binge eating doesn’t necessarily mean that you may have suffered from any trauma and abuse. Usually, people binge eat to forget daily anxiety and stress. It’s a way to avoid the current problem at least for a little bit.
Binge eating high-density fast food releases a chemical in the brain that makes them feel good. It is technically a self soothing mechanism.
Binge eating can sometimes also be related to the trauma. Sometimes in the case of someone who has gone through sexual abuse, eating might be a way to literally build a wall of fat between them or someone who might think of abusing them.
Continuing this behavior over time can lead to serious consequences. People may physically dependent on food to release the feel-good emotion. This eventually becomes a continued attack on the body, destroying one’s health and ultimately
Why do some people use spicy food as a coping mechanism?
Everyone’s spice level tolerance is different. This is usually based on cultural influence and personal preference or tolerance built over time.
There are also studies that prove that if your mom ate spicy food while she was pregnant with you, that may be the reason why you have a craving for it or use it to self soothe.
A lot of people eat spicy food for the thrill of it. It makes you feel something. It produces similar results as watching a horror movie or riding a roller coaster – rising heart rate, heavy breathing, etc. People continue to do it because they all know they are going to be fine in the end.
It’s a way to get an adrenaline rush in a constrained risk situation.
3. Excessive Exercising
By excessive exercising, I mean working out to the point where you cannot move after, more than 2 hours a day, or training for the same time multiple times in the day.
Why do people use excessive exercise as a coping mechanism?
Excessive exercising can be seen as a productive form of distraction, but it’s not. Exercising is great for your body, mind, and spirit, but in moderation.
Many people use it to deal with stress, uncomfortable situations, distract from relationship problems, money problems, dealing with loss, etc.
2. Aimless social media scrolling
We’ve all been there.
Mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or other social media platforms until we see the dreaded ‘No more new posts’ bar and are filled with dread.
Plenty of hours have been wasted for no good reason.
Why do people use social media a coping mechanism?
Social media is a numbing device. Many may argue that social media is the cause of a lot of major stress, like body dysmorphia, comparison, jealousy, being exposed to the umpteen number of injustices happening to our fellow brothers and sisters. This is not easy to go through.
Social media with its hundreds of cues and signals makes our mind move away from the present and serves as a measure for avoiding current stressors or makes us not do the things we know we are capable of as we always feel someone else is doing better.
If you would like to know how to stop using social media so much, read my full, post on ‘How To Get Out of the Social Media Wormhole Now!.’
At the end of the day, social media like most other coping mechanisms is an escapist method.
1. Online Shopping
I am super guilty of this one.
I admit I am an online shopping addict. I am a sucker for sales and discounts. If anyone else can relate, leave a comment below.
Why do people use online shopping as a coping mechanism?
Material things often help fill an emotional void. Material happiness is the sister of destination happiness. It makes you feel like if you just had that one more thing, or if you bought that one last shoe, it would make your life better.
Emotional wounds, stresses, and triggers don’t go away in a day or two. It takes a long time to come to terms with it. It takes confronting what is causing you the issue within yourself to really get over emotional pain.
When you start to ask yourself questions like – Why am I buying this? Am I trying to cover some sort of emotional pain? What am I hiding from? – is when you can begin your healing journey and cut down your online shopping expenditures.
That brings us to the end of our post on coping mechanisms.
Once again I would like to reiterate it’s perfectly okay to indulge in the less harmful and not so harmful coping mechanisms but in moderation.
I hope you found some answers in this post.
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