Replacing Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms with Healthy Coping

When you are faced with stressful situations, do you find yourself turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as binge eating junk food, drinking alcohol, or using drugs, to handle your overwhelming emotions? Though it may seem challenging, turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms isn’t your only option. 

Below, we answer your questions about the differences between negative and positive coping mechanisms as well as the type of treatment you can receive so that you can learn how to come out of stressful situations feeling stronger than before.

What Are Some Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms?

drug and alcohol abuse

Unhealthy coping mechanisms can be anything that bring temporary relief, joy, or feelings of numbness from pain. While these temporary solutions feel nice in the moment, they often lead to further problems further down the road. Common examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms include:

Coping with pain, stress, and general discomfort is something that all humans must do in their lives in order to survive. However, turning to junk food, alcohol, drugs, and other harmful substances or actions will create more strain on your body both physically and emotionally.

The reason why these are considered unhealthy or negative coping mechanisms is because these actions do not actually allow you to cope. Rather, turning to these substances redirects the pain. Inevitably, the feelings that temporarily go away after using an unhealthy coping mechanism will return—sometimes more severe than before.


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Why Do I Use Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms?

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When you use food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with stressful situations, you feel bursts of relief. But why do these supposedly harmful substances often feel good after you turn to them? Well, all of these substances release “happy” hormones, such as serotonin or dopamine, after you consume them. However, these feelings do not last, which leaves you craving more. This is where unhealthy coping mechanisms can turn into substance use disorders. This behavior is also called self-medicating.

Recently, there has been a rise in mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as more reports of people having substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic. People just like you are unaware of how to healthily cope with the stress of this global virus. As a result, you and others like you turn to what you do know: drinking, doing drugs, and pushing away mental health distress.

In addition to redirecting the pain or temporarily distracting yourself from feelings of discomfort, you might use unhealthy coping mechanisms to avoid facing the truth about something. If you have symptoms of a mental health disorder but you are not sure how to get help, you might use unhealthy coping mechanisms in an attempt to push the problem further away from you.

As we learned above, however, avoiding the truth doesn’t make it disappear. This is why practicing positive coping mechanisms through addiction treatment will help you get to the root of your struggles and fully recover from mental health distress.

What Positive Coping Mechanisms Will I Learn in Treatment?

coping with stress

Treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health challenges will first help you to recover from past negative coping mechanisms and prepare you on how to use healthy coping mechanisms in the future. 

If you have been self-medicating to deal with stress, the first step toward recovery is going through a safe detoxification program. In detox, you will begin to heal the physical and psychological side effects that have built up from masking anxiety. Then, you will be able to start working with positive coping mechanisms as a way to cope with the challenges that come during recovery and after your time in treatment.

In treatment, you will learn positive coping mechanisms through services such as:

Furthermore, you will learn to replace your old coping habits with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skills. These two therapeutic approaches are proven to give patients a wide range of healthy coping mechanisms. They will allow you to practice positive coping mechanisms like using breathing techniques, mindfulness, stress management, and emotional regulation.

It takes time and dedication to learn these valuable skills. This is why substance use disorder treatment and mental health care programs are so beneficial—no matter the stressful situation, you will have the positive support of mental health professionals and other people working to recover.

Where Can I Find Help for Negative Coping Skills?

With the holidays and the end of the year nearing, stressful situations seem to multiply and become even harder to cope with. If you feel that you rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self-medicating to suppress unwanted feelings, your physical and mental health could be in great danger. However, at the Vance Johnson Recovery Center, we are prepared to help you turn your negative coping mechanisms around. 

To learn more about healthy coping mechanisms, mental health care, and addiction recovery give the staff at the Vance Johnson Recovery Center a call at 888-828-2623 or take the first step by completing our confidential form today. With the right help, you will not have to face the risk of self-medication or the harm of unhealthy coping mechanisms again.

Coping mechanisms are tactics that you can use to get through stressful situations. Dealing with uncomfortable emotions is challenging and, sometimes, unhealthy coping mechanisms are easier to turn to in these intense moments. However, the only way to safely get through tense situations and overwhelming feelings is to practice using healthy coping mechanisms.

Heather Ware

Heather is a content writer from Ohio who has a sincere passion for psychology and addiction recovery. Her areas of interest include alcoholism, depression, and recovery options, to name a few.

Self-medication is one of the negative coping mechanisms that many people resort to when they aren’t sure how to handle stressful situations. Many people self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to numb or “cope” with their feelings. However, self-medication is extremely dangerous and can lead to serious health consequences, including addiction, worsening mental health symptoms, and even death. Self-medication examples include:

  • Drinking when you have anxiety
  • Using drugs when you feel upset
  • Eating junk food after heartbreak
Heather Ware

Heather is a content writer from Ohio who has a sincere passion for psychology and addiction recovery. Her areas of interest include alcoholism, depression, and recovery options, to name a few.

If you self-medicate, you simply want relief from the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical pain that you are experiencing. But in self-medicating, you do not properly address your struggles and instead add onto them. Alcohol and anxiety, for example, do not mix well. Alcohol can actually make your symptoms worse and result in anxiety attacks, depression, and impulsive decision making.

Heather Ware

Heather is a content writer from Ohio who has a sincere passion for psychology and addiction recovery. Her areas of interest include alcoholism, depression, and recovery options, to name a few.

Self-medicating with alcohol is incredibly common, as many people turn to this substance after a stressful day to relax or “loosen up.” Remember, alcohol is a sedative and a depressant. This means that alcohol alters your mood and causes you to feel tired. Alcohol does not solve your problems but instead keeps them bottled up inside of you, waiting to burst.

Heather Ware

Heather is a content writer from Ohio who has a sincere passion for psychology and addiction recovery. Her areas of interest include alcoholism, depression, and recovery options, to name a few.

Self-medicating is a very unhealthy way to cope with mental health issues. In addition to the physical harm this behavior can cause—including alcohol poisoning, overdose, and even death—self-medication worsens mental health symptoms

Though you might think that you are helping yourself to feel better by turning to drugs or alcohol, the truth is that the problems are continuing to grow. This is why it is so important to learn healthy coping strategies—without them, you put your happiness and your life at risk.

Heather Ware

Heather is a content writer from Ohio who has a sincere passion for psychology and addiction recovery. Her areas of interest include alcoholism, depression, and recovery options, to name a few.

Las Vegas Addiction Recovery

Located in dynamic Las Vegas, Nevada, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) a 44-bed facility is run by a skilled multi-disciplinary team of medical and behavioral health professionals that includes nurses, counselors, and doctors, along with complementary and alternative medicine specialists to provide our clients with a transformational experience that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Our approach is holistic and grounded in research and evidenced-based best practices that help people develop the awareness and skills required to achieve and sustain recovery.

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