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Identifying unhealthy coping mechanisms

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#1 Lis

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 01:30 PM

So Jes has a great thread going right now about healthy coping mechanisms here, and since I just recently realized how many unhealthy coping mechanisms I've picked up, I thought I'd start one on identifying them (and them replacing them with all of the good suggestions in the other thread :)).

A few days ago, bloogirl wrote this thread about numbing yourself and avoiding life by staying on the computer for excessive amounts of time, and I realized that spending 92843 hours a day on the computer had become an unhealthy coping mechanism for me.

In order to avoid thinking about any problems, my life has become a constant stream of entertainment. When I wake up, the TV goes on, and I sign online. Either one or the other entertains me until I go to class. I talk on the phone in the car, so that I don't have to think there. I also talk on the phone when I walk the dog. I have come to LOATHE showers (although I do still take them), because I can't find anything to entertain me in the bathroom.

This... is not healthy. It's avoidance, and it really needs to stop (thank you bloogirl for putting me on the right track!).

Anyway, it has been really helpful for me to at least have figured out that I have this unhealthy coping mechanism.

So has anyone else identified an unhealthy coping mechanism? How did you overcome it?

#2 Louise

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 02:27 PM

Hey Lis, have you got sufficient supports in your life, babe? If you know you can make use of them, perhaps looking at the problems won't be as scary, and of course there's always us to listen  :D  

Right - my bad coping mechanisms:


I stop ringing friends, I refuse invitations and just let the answering machine take calls which often aren't returned. I'm either too scared to be with people, or I feel as if I haven't got any energy to contribute anything worthwhile. Sometimes for weeks all I see is my immediate family.

Then I start to feel a bit crazy, as if I couldn't deal with people even if I wanted to.

I overcome this by asking myself how long I'm going to let trauma diminish my quality of life and relationships with people.

I pick up the phone and make that call to a friend I haven't spoken too in ages. I put on a fresh coat of lipstick and go downtown to look at the shops, making sure I speak to people I know instead of pretending not to see them.

It ALWAYS helps me reconnect.

Too much drink

has been another bad coping mechanism for me. At times in my life when I've been bombarded with terror and panic, I found that this was the only way to control fear. But of course there are other ways, like facing what you're frightened of with a support-person.

In my times of drinking to much, I've told myself that if I get trapped in alcoholism, the abuse wins, and I'm simply not going to allow that. There is a whole life waiting for me, and I want to experience it!

Then, because I really do like a couple of grogs in the evening and think they're a great little unwinder, I studiously limit myself to having them as a treat two or three times a week.

My heavy addiction to cigarettes

is a very unhealthy coping mechanism both physically and psychologically...and I know that I can go on till doomsday about self-respect, but a true sign of that will be giving up smoking.


#3 Guest__*

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 02:32 PM

That sounds familiar. Right now I have music on, I'm posting here, I have a book in progress, and I was about to start a game of Spider solitaire... I'm numbed out and that's not very healthy coping.

I also go the other way: deliberately triggering the hell out of myself when I feel too numb. Here, elsewhere on the web, reading triggery books. It scares me when I can't feel and so I push at the bad stuff.

I know I sleep as a way to avoid thinking. I use food to comfort myself, and I still have some of my SI habits. I quit cutting, now if I can only quit pulling my hair, picking my scabs, etc. My leg twitches almost constantly when I'm at the computer, as a calming thing.

Probably worst is I 'fake it'. Pretend there's absolutely nothing wrong to my friends, and avoid them if it's too bad to cover up. I dissociate so well that when I'm with them I am OK, until I leave and then it's even worse... Not only is this not good for me, it keeps me away for possible sources of support and *healthy* coping.

Now, what to do about these?


#4 Guest__*

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 07:05 PM

Geez, you gals are hitting 'em all right on the nose!

Lou, a few days ago you mentioned how you fear dragging others down by asking for their support; essentially fearing that they'll see you as whining, when really you have a legitimate, honest, very Real need which deserves attention.  It is exactly that fear which causes me to isolate myself.  Of course, there's also those fears of embarrassment and disappointing loved ones...  I'm still working on these.  But right now, I'm able to start by saying "All I need to hear is that you love me and that you're here for me".  And when they show me that they really ARE there for me, more tumbles out and we have a good talk.  :)

I also go the other way: deliberately triggering the hell out of myself when I feel too numb. Here, elsewhere on the web, reading triggery books. It scares me when I can't feel and so I push at the bad stuff.

I also fall into Caitlin's mode of triggering myself.  Or, at least trying to.  Many times I'm so damned numb that I can't even do that.  THAT just plain scares me.  I'm workin' on it!


#5 Mary

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 08:24 PM

i make everything out in life to be a joke (very dark humor). i stay on the comp all hours of the night. i play snood. drinking/drugs has been there, but ive cut it out for the most part now.


#6 hilary

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 09:15 PM

i'm just going to make a list here.

i definitely drink too much.
i very much isolate myself from loved ones.
i spend too much time online.
i have a serious addiction to renting movies (5 every 2 days).
self injury.

i guess that's most of it.

(((((hugs to all)))))


#7 smile4203

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 09:28 PM

I keep incredibly busy -running here and there, doing this or that- until either exhaustion, the actual issue I'm avoding, or both finally catch up with me.

Not eating - when I'm stressed I don't eat and when I do I usually throw it right back up


Avoiding conversations with humor, change of subject, or pretending like everything is okay when it isn't

#8 Rose Petal

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 09:44 PM

Great list idea! Here's mine:

i isolate myself from loved ones
keep busy
obsess about little things that don't matter (distractions)
totally disassociate - leave my body
switch to a happy "part" ** the most used and most effective
watch cartoons

But too, when numb, I really stir things up and intentionally trigger all over the place.

Don't have any healthy ones yet.

#9 Lis

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 11:14 AM

Hey all :)

Thank you for your replies! I used to "fake it" all the time, and I am still really bad about it in intimate relationships. With friends, I *finally* (after four years of college and a semester of law school) allowed myself to trust some friends enough to not fake it ALL the time. It's a hard process.

On another note, I've been working on the zoning out/numbing/distracting myself thing. I have tried to spend some time in the car with just music, and I have taken several walks with the dog without the cell phone. I let myself just think...

It turns out that I actually don't have much to say to myself. I think that I was paralyzed by the fear of what MIGHT get in if I wasn't vigilant about protecting myself from intrusive thoughts. But mostly I've found that I'm enjoying a quiet moment, and that I don't have much more to say than, "Mmmm... dog... walking...." or the occasional "that driver is an ass."


#10 Cira

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 10:51 PM

I've got a few.

SI - Usually biting myself...it's getting better, but I still do it.

Keeping myself busy - Yes, I relate to that one, too.

Hiding behind humor.  Dark humor.  Making fun of myself.  Yep, I do that, too.

I also am horrible about avoidance, but the (perhaps strange) thing I have to note is that I don't avoid thoughts of the rapes, I don't avoid feeling what I'm feeling (anymore)...but I tend to avoid life.  I avoid situations in which I might fail.  I avoid things like calling my annoying mortgage company, b/c I don't want to hear that horrible woman bitch at me again (yes, I'm 23, not 6...).  I avoid situations like that.  Whenever I can.  I even occasionally ask my mom to make calls for me, excusing myself with shit like, "Gee, I would, but...You know, by the time I get off work, they're closed, and you know I don't have time before work..."  How pathetic is THAT?  Having my mother make phone calls for me so I don't have to cope w/ my own shit.  Yeah...I feel distinctly childish now. :P

I also relate to the concept of triggering myself into feeling something, just to avoid the numbness that I hate so much.  I've done it many times.  

I've worked pretty hard at all of these coping methods.  I've finally reached a place where I allow myself to feel however I'm feeling, and it feels great to allow myself to feel.  I don't always get the whole self-care thing right, but I'm better than I was.  I do try.

As for the avoidance, I have a hard time with that.  When I do get around to doing something that I've been avoiding, it's usually only b/c I've shamed myself into doing it and made myself feel like a failure for not having already done it/dealt with it.  Not good.  I need to be gentler with myself.

The one thing I have found for the avoidance is to just throw myself into the situation without giving myself a chance to think about it...By the time that other part of me (the part that avoids) figures out that I'm doing what I've been dreading, it's too late to turn back, and I'm forced to go ahead.  

Argh, I'm rambling.



#11 Lis

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 09:45 AM

Ugh, Lynn, I am a chronic avoider, too. I still make my mother deal with all of my insurance company shit, and I'm ALSO 23, not 6. With the exception of school, I put everything off until it's LATE. Bills, calls, laundry - you name it, I don't do it until I'm forced to. I do, however, feel bad about not doing it the entire time. Healthy.

I can also related to people who said "not eating." I do this unconsciously, so it's a hard habit to break. I've been stressed this past week, and when I got on the scale, I had lost 6 lbs. Not good. I didn't even realize I was doing it.


#12 Cira

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 12:09 PM

Ugh, Lynn, I am a chronic avoider, too. I still make my mother deal with all of my insurance company shit, and I'm ALSO 23, not 6. With the exception of school, I put everything off until it's LATE. Bills, calls, laundry - you name it, I don't do it until I'm forced to. I do, however, feel bad about not doing it the entire time. Healthy.

I can also related to people who said "not eating." I do this unconsciously, so it's a hard habit to break. I've been stressed this past week, and when I got on the scale, I had lost 6 lbs. Not good. I didn't even realize I was doing it.


Firstly, Lis, I love you for that first paragraph.  I'm glad I'm not the only one who is so bad about this!  And yes, I beat myself up about it the whole time as well.

It's funny how you should mention unconsciously not eating...I do it, too.  And while I'm certainly not alaramed by my recent weight loss, eating one meal a day is really not the best way to go about losing that weight.  I don't realize I'm doing it, either.  It's just that it usually isn't until late afternoon or early evening that it hits me that I haven't eaten.  Gotta break that habit.


#13 Lis

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 08:37 AM

Hey Lynn -

Yeah, the forgetting to eat thing is a problem. I've been trying to set up times of day that I'll eat, but since my schedule is so crazy, I usually end up missing most of them.


#14 ScarletBeauty

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 02:55 PM

I've been away from pandys just a couple of months but it seems like a long time! I love all the new threads and I could immediately relate to this one, so thank you Lis for starting it.

I've been such a mess lately that I couldn't bring myself to do anything but going to the movies. I guess (ok, I know) going to the cinema is my primary unhealthy coping mechanism. Or to make it simple, I go to see a movie because I'd rather "lose" myself into someone else's life than think about mine. When I'm not watching a movie I'm constantly listening to music. The idea of being in the subway without my cd player makes me have a panic attack!
But anyway, I thought I'd share with you some of the movies I've seen recently and for recently I mean during the past 3 weeks. The list is not complete because I know I've forgotten some. Some of those I've seen twice....when I couldn't find anything to watch I'd rather watch the same movie again then going home....sometimes I would watch 2 movies during the same day, always alone.

Kill Bill, Mystic River, Intolerable Cruelty, Lost In Translation,
In The Cut, The Human Stain, Sylvia,Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Gothika.

Listening to music is turning into a big unhealthy coping mechanism for me. I use it to create a wall between me and other people. If I go to the hair saloon, I need to have my cd player with me and listen to music because I don't want to talk with the guy or girl who is doing my hair. If I'm in the computer lab in my college I listen to music so that no one would come and bother me. If my rommate ( who I like and think highly of) is in the room I put my headphones on.... and done, I ignore the world again.

thanks for listening,

P.S. I used to post under a fake name (Scarlet) but I don't think I need to hide any longer. Verena is my real name.

#15 Emma

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 04:00 PM

((Verena)) - Congratulations on using your real name!

I have a whole list of things I use to avoid just being:


I stick the TV on a lot of the time, even though there's nothing I really want to watch. Somehow having the noise of it makes me feel more connected to reality, even though it makes me less connected to the reality of myself.


I find it really hard not to get stressed about work, and to not let it consume me. I just don't get people who stop when it's time to go home, even if they haven't 'finished'. Which is a very bad thing! I find myself introducing thoughts about work during the evenings and weekends, almost as a distraction.

This past wee while has been majorly stressful at work, so it's been hard differentiating between thoughts I've had to have, and thoughts that I'm just torturing myself with. I definitely lost perspective, and have only recently got some of that back.


I too have a major tendency to let things build up until they are late - calls, bills, whatever. I think that I like the adrenaline rush of fixing things that are almost in a bad state. I'm much better at that recently than I've been previously, but the temptation is very much there.

This past week I've been aware that a part of me is almost screaming out not to be alone with my thoughts. Like Lis, I've been really afraid of what I would feel if I just let myself be for a while. I think that I also like the sensation of using my brain, and thinking things through - whether that be exploring ideas, or thinking about work or books or whatever. 'Be'ing is the hardest thing for me, but I think the only thing that is really going to progress my healing and let me be more myself. (I realise with all those 'be's in there that that sentence probably didn't make much sense!)

Recent blog entries on this topic


From: Identifying unhealthy coping mechanisms

By Wil in Wil's Blog, on 05 June 2013 - 08:51 AM

Used to:

Not telling anyone. Not trusting anyone. Cut. Badly and regularly. And not get it treated or stitched. Drink heavily, every day. Mostly on my own. For years. And every night until I passed out. Starve for days on end. Isolate myself completely . Home alone, in the dark. Have random, aggressive/violent sex with strangers. Chain smoke til I felt sick. And then smoke some more. Ignore anyone who spoke to me and just walk off. Did not deal with my bipolar - no help, no meds- I preferred those feelings to my 'real' ones. Put myself in dangerous situations . Play'chicken' in physically dangerous situations. Wind people up on purpose, especially men http://www.pandys.or...t/confused1.gif Don't know why I did that - exerting some 'power'? Maybe. Also I think I just wanted to be punished. Told myself I was fine. Told everyone else I was fine. Got better at pretending I was fine. Latching onto basically anyone cos was I desperate for someone to care about me (obviously, they didn't). trying to create a fake happy family cos I didn't think there would ever be one otherwise. Letting myself get used because I thought I wasn't worth anything better. Lying to my GPs, hospital staff, psych cos I was scared of being labelled mad (duh - I am mad, pretending you're not doesn't change it!) Avoiding anything that reminded me of the things that had happened. Avoiding anything that could have helped me eg psych help, helplines/books/sites - cos if I admitted I needed help, I had to first admit that it had screwed me up. Laughing when idiots make R/SA jokes, or worse, making those comments myself (theory: if I laugh, then it didn't happen to me, and even if it did happen, it doesn't matter) Holding onto anger because it's preferable to getting upset.


Procrastinating about dealing with things full-on. Not engaging with people. Not engaging with life. Random sex with strangers (old habits are hard to break). Isolate myself. Don't engage with other people. Don't trust people.

Hmmn. Just realised how long the first list is. Wow. No wonder I felt like sh*t back then.

Source: Identifying unhealthy coping mechanisms

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