What are coping skills?
Most adults have heard to the term coping skills. The things that you do or use that help you cope with your emotions or a situation. There are both maladaptive and adaptive coping skills that people use to cope with their emotions.
What are Maladaptive Coping skills?
Maladaptive coping skills are skills someone has learned that are unhelpful and at times harmful. These coping skills help to make us feel better in the short term, but in the long run can be very harmful with impacting negative consequences on your life.
What are adaptive coping skills?
Adaptive coping skills are healthy tools a person develops over time to help cope with emotions and stressful situations.
Examples of Adaptive Coping:
- Daily gratitude practices
- Problem solving
- Mindful breaks
- Reaching out to loved one
- Being assertive
Examples of Maladaptive Coping:
- Substance use
- Alcohol abuse
- Eating disorders
- Self harm
- Impulsivity: shoplifting, promiscuous sex, gambling
- Ongoing passive suicidal thoughts as a means of escape.
“The most powerful form of reward is relational. Positive interactions with people are rewarding and regulating. Without connection to people who care for you, spend time with you, and support you, it is almost impossible to step away from any form of unhealthy reward and regulation.” – Bruce Perry
So….How do you cope with things?
Do you problem solve the situation or avoid it? Do you go for a run or get into a fight? Or do you take a break and then talk it out? Maybe you stay and yell at someone?
Or is it a mix? No one is perfect. For example, there are some days after a long or hard day at work, that I will eat my fair share of chocolate while zoning out in front of the TV. There are other days, I will go home, go for a long walk, make a healthy dinner, and read a book.
However, when you are using more maladaptive coping skills vs adaptive you are going to have more negative consequences impacting your life. As a result this can lead to more maladaptive coping, more negative consequences, and round and round you go.
Can you change your coping skills?
Absolutely. However, it is also important to recognize that this often requires external help from loved ones and often professionals. It is extremely common for those with a history of trauma to come into therapy with some form of maladaptive coping skills- often times, learned in childhood. For instance I once said, “when you were a teenager, and as a young adult, you did what you could to stay alive…and here you are. Sitting in front of me. You did it, and now, we can work on healthier ways for you to cope with the stressors of life and symptoms of trauma.” To sum up: it is important to recognize that you developed those maladaptive skills for a reason… but you do not have to keep them. You can get help for PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, etc. You can learn healthier ways of coping.
Blog Disclaimer – These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.