How To Get Rid Of Bad Coping Mechanisms?

Last Updated
March 16, 2023
A woman biting her nails is a sign of negative coping mechanism

How To Rid Of Bad Coping Mechanisms
Overcome Bad Coping Mechanisms
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- Recognize your unhealthy coping mechanisms
- Understand the root cause
- Replace bad coping mechanisms with healthy ones
- Build a support system
- Practice self-care
- Track your progress
- Stay committed

- Identify your unhealthy mechanisms
- Understand the situations or emotions that trigger your unhealthy coping mechanisms
- Research and explore healthier coping strategies
- Start incorporating the healthy coping mechanisms into your life
- Talk to friends, family, or a mental health professional
- Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions to better understand your reactions to stress and challenges
- Be patient and persistent
- Regularly evaluate your progress
- Celebrate your successes and adjust your approach if needed

Coping mechanisms are strategies that individuals use to deal with stress, anxiety, and difficult situations. Coping mechanisms can help you feel better. Examples of healthy coping strategies are exercising and meditating. Unhealthy ways to cope include using drugs or hurting yourself.

4 images of people exhibiting negative coping mechanisms

Understanding unhealthy coping mechanisms

Bad coping mechanisms are harmful behaviors that individuals engage in to cope with stress and anxiety. Doing certain things might make you feel better when you are stressed or anxious. But it is not good for you in the long run. [1]

Interested in learning more about the crucial distinctions between coping and defense mechanisms? Our latest article, "Coping Vs Defense Mechanisms: Understanding the Key Differences," offers a comprehensive analysis of these psychological concepts and their implications for personal growth and mental health.

Examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms

  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Emotional eating
  • Avoidance
  • Social isolation
  • Oversleeping or sleeping too much
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Eating disorders
  • Excessive exercise
  • Seeking attention or approval from others
  • Procrastination or avoidance of responsibilities
  • Denial or avoidance of emotions
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  • Nail-biting
  • Skin-picking
  • Excessive use of technology or social media
  • Negative self-talk or self-deprecation
  • Disassociation
  • Perfectionism
  • Blaming others for problems or difficulties
  • Overworking [2]
A child learning healthy coping mechanisms from their parent

How do unhealthy copy mechanisms form?

Learned behavior

Many unhealthy coping mechanisms are learned from family members, peers, or other role models. If those around us model unhealthy ways of coping with stress, difficult and negative emotions, we may adopt those same behaviors as our own.

Trauma or past experiences

If someone has gone through a hard time, they may develop negative coping skills to handle their feelings. For example, if someone was hurt, they might use drugs or alcohol to try and make the pain go away.

Mental health disorders

Some mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or PTSD can make it hard to manage stress and emotions. People with these issues may use unhelpful ways of dealing with how they feel.

Lack of positive coping mechanisms

Some people don't know how to deal with the stress or tough feelings they have. Without knowing other ways to cope, they might try unhealthy things as a way of dealing with them.

Social and cultural factors

How people deal with problems can be influenced by culture and society. For example, some cultures don't talk about mental health, so someone might not get help for their issues. Instead, they may do unhealthy things to try to cope. [3]

A woman asking how to develop healthy coping skills to deal with stressful situations

Signs of unhealthy coping mechanisms

Emotional and psychological symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Self-harm
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Substance abuse
  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Guilt or shame
  • Lack of motivation or interest in activities
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Paranoia or suspiciousness
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Emotional numbness
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Substance cravings
  • Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Digestive problems
  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Hyperventilation or shortness of breath
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Sweating or chills
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Insomnia or changes in sleep patterns
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Skin conditions
  • Weakened immune system
  • Chronic pain or illness exacerbation
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Teeth grinding or jaw pain
  • Reproductive problems
  • Elevated blood pressure or blood sugar levels
  • Increased risk of heart disease or stroke [4] [5]

Personal Stories and Examples of Overcoming Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Eating disorder

Ashley Graham is a model and body positivity activist who has spoken openly about her struggles with an eating disorder. She started dieting at a young age and developed an unhealthy relationship with food. She would often binge and purge, and she would restrict her food intake to the point of feeling faint. Graham's eating disorder took a toll on her physical and mental health. She was constantly tired, she had low self-esteem, and she was afraid to leave her house.

Graham eventually realized that she needed to get help. She sought treatment from a therapist and a nutritionist. She also began to focus on building a healthy relationship with food. Graham now eats a balanced diet and exercises regularly. She is also an advocate for body positivity and she encourages others to love their bodies, no matter what size they are. [8]

Substance abuse

Demi Lovato is a singer and actress who has been open about her struggles with substance abuse. She started using drugs and alcohol at a young age, and her addiction spiraled out of control in her early twenties. Lovato overdosed on heroin in 2018 and was hospitalized for several weeks.

After her overdose, Lovato decided to get sober. She entered a rehabilitation program and began attending 12-step meetings. She also started working with a therapist and a life coach. Lovato has been sober for over three years and she is now an advocate for addiction recovery. She has spoken openly about her experiences in the hopes of helping others who are struggling with addiction. [9]


Megan Phelps-Roper is a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group that is known for picketing the funerals of soldiers and other victims of tragedy. Phelps-Roper was raised in the church and she was taught to believe that God hated everyone who was not a member of the church. She began self-harming at a young age as a way to cope with the pain and anger she felt.

Phelps-Roper left the Westboro Baptist Church in 2012 and she is now an advocate for people who have been affected by hate groups. She has spoken openly about her experiences in the hopes of helping others who are struggling with self-harm.

A man with beer in his man

How to get rid of an unhealthy coping mechanism

Recognize your unhealthy coping mechanisms

The first step is to recognize unhealthy habits. Think about how you act or what you think when times are tough. Look for any patterns that could be bad for your health or make you feel worse.

Understand the root cause

Once you have identified your bad coping mechanisms, try to understand the underlying reasons for them. Ask yourself why you engage in these behaviors and what triggers them. Sometimes, coping mechanisms develop as a response to past traumas or experiences.

Replace bad coping mechanisms with healthy ones

It's important to have a plan for what you will do instead of engaging in bad coping mechanisms. For example, if you typically turn to alcohol or drugs when feeling stressed, try replacing it with a healthy activity like going for a walk or practicing deep breathing exercises.

Build a support system

Find people who care about you and will support you in making good choices. They can help keep you on the right path.

Seek help from mental health professionals who can provide additional support and guidance in developing healthy coping mechanisms. We suggest taking the reins of your healing process through Online Therapy.

Practice self-care

Engage in self-care practices like regular exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep habits. Make a conscious effort to set aside time for yourself and engage in activities that bring you pleasure, contentment, and relaxation.

Track your progress

Keep track of your progress in getting rid of bad coping mechanisms. When you make progress, it's important to celebrate. If you make mistakes, don't be too hard on yourself. Change takes time and work, but it's worth the effort in the end.

Stay committed

Stay committed to your plan for change and keep working towards your goals. It's okay if things get tough. Don't give up when you face a problem or challenge. That's part of the process.

With time and effort, you can replace your bad coping mechanisms with healthy ones. [6]

A girl going for a walk in nature

Tips for successfully overcoming bad coping mechanisms

  • Take a few deep breaths when feeling stressed or overwhelmed
  • Take a break from social media and other digital distractions
  • Spend time outdoors in nature
  • Practice mindfulness meditation
  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your struggles
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal
  • Take up a new hobby or activity that brings you joy
  • Practice gratitude by listing things you're thankful for each day
  • Get regular exercise, even if it's just a short walk
  • Take breaks throughout the day to stretch and move your body
  • Set realistic goals for yourself and celebrate small accomplishments
  • Identify triggers for your bad coping mechanisms and make a plan for how to avoid them
  • Practice positive self-talk and challenge negative thoughts
  • Engage in deep breathing exercises to calm your mind and body
  • Spend time with pets or other animals [7]
A woman talking to a therapist

The Role of Therapy in Overcoming Bad Coping Mechanisms

Why is therapy important in overcoming bad coping mechanisms?

Provides a safe and supportive environment

Therapy provides a safe and supportive environment where individuals can process their feelings, thoughts, and experiences. This can help individuals understand the root causes of their bad coping mechanisms and develop new, healthier ways of managing stress and anxiety.

Teaches new coping skills

Therapy can teach individuals new coping skills and strategies for managing stress, anxiety, and difficult emotions. This can help individuals replace bad coping mechanisms with healthy ones.

Promotes self-awareness

Therapy can promote self-awareness and help individuals understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This can be particularly helpful in overcoming bad coping mechanisms, as individuals can gain insight into why they engage in harmful behaviors and how they can change.

Encourages self-compassion

Therapy can encourage self-compassion and help individuals be kind and gentle with themselves. This can be especially important in overcoming bad coping mechanisms, as individuals may feel guilty or ashamed about their behavior.

Supports personal growth and change

Therapy can support personal growth and change by providing individuals with the tools and resources they need to overcome bad coping mechanisms. This can include developing new coping skills, improving self-esteem, and building resilience. [11]

A girl talking to a therapist

Types of Therapy for Overcoming Bad Coping Mechanisms

There are several types of therapy that can be effective in overcoming bad coping mechanisms, including:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. This type of therapy can be especially helpful in overcoming bad coping mechanisms, as it can help individuals identify and change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of therapy that teaches individuals new coping skills and strategies for managing stress and emotions. This type of therapy can be especially helpful in overcoming bad coping mechanisms, as it can provide individuals with the tools they need to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is a form of therapy that focuses on helping individuals accept and embrace their thoughts and feelings. This type of therapy can be especially helpful in overcoming bad coping mechanisms, as it can help individuals develop a more accepting and non-judgmental attitude towards themselves and their experiences.

Trauma-Focused Therapy

Trauma-focused therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on helping individuals recover from past traumas. This type of therapy can be especially helpful in overcoming bad coping mechanisms, as individuals who have experienced trauma may engage in harmful coping mechanisms as a way of dealing with their pain. [11]


You do not need to struggle alone. There are things you can do to help with bad coping mechanisms. It is important to take responsibility for your health and mental well-being. Doing this will help you break free from bad habits.


What can I do to overcome bad coping mechanisms? 

Incorporating lifestyle changes such as engaging in physical activity, mindfulness activities, visualization exercises and aromatherapy are great ways to begin the process of overcoming bad coping mechanisms. Finally, consider seeking professional support from a therapist or counselor for additional guidance. 

How can I create healthier coping mechanisms? 

To have healthy ways of managing stress, you need to take a break and understand how you feel. Figure out what you need to feel better. Then look for different strategies that can help you improve your mental health.


  1. Clear Recovery Center: Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
  3. Cleveland Clinic: Stress: Coping With Life's Stressors
  4. Real Simple: 9 Unhealthy Coping Habits That End Up Hurting More Than Helping
  5. PositivePsychology: Maladaptive Coping: 15 Examples & How to Break the Cycle
  6. Shanna Nemrow: How to Overcome Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
  7. Lifehack: 74 Healthy Habits to Improve Every Aspect of Your Life
  8. A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like
  9. Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil | Live Premiere
  10. Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church | Megan Phelps-Roper | Oxford Union
  11. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL COPING SKILLS THERAPY MANUAL

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Jamie Armstrong
I have a passion for writing. I work as a Senior Marketing Manager for Islomania LLC. I have developed a strong interest in writing articles and website management during my time here. I enjoy both article writing, poetry, and story writing. In my role as a marketing manager, whether I’m writing an article, or a story, or improving other writers’ content, I always try to engage my readers and give them something to think about.
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