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  • Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford

Coping with Anxiety: Normal vs Maladaptive



We all have experienced stressful events at some point or other in our lives, whether it is related a family crisis, work, school, romantic relationship, health, etc. Although, many of us face the same or similar stressful events, we all respond and cope with them differently. The manner in which we perceive and learn to deal with these stressful situations can be the key to whether or not we remain stressed or can move beyond our circumstances. Effective coping skills can lead to a resolution of stressful event, better enhanced management skills, and reduced anxiety. It is important to learn and develop good coping methods to promote healthy functioning.

For some people stressful events can seem overwhelming, leading to increased feelings of anxiety. In order to effectively manage stress and anxiety we must have or develop healthy coping strategies. Coping strategies describe how we consciously and unconsciously deal with stress. In other words, it refers to the strategies we employ to deal with whatever is causing us stress or discomfort: do we face the problem head on? Do we brush it away and hope it disappears? Do we pretend is does not exist, etc. Our existing coping strategies can determine a lot of things about us, i.e., how we manage ourselves under stress, if we choose to tackle the issue alone, are prone to reach out for help from others, deny there is an issue, use drugs or alcohol to manage or numb feelings, etc. Unfortunately, while some substances may provide short-term relief of negative feelings they do nothing to solve the actual causes of the stress, nor do they help us develop our own resilience. Failing to appropriately manage negative feelings and using substances can lead to addiction. Additionally, drugs and alcohol are incredibly risky to our health and well-being, making them maladaptive coping mechanisms.

Increased anxiety can lead to interruptions or interference in daily functioning, making it nearly impossible to move beyond the stressful event. However, we must also keep in mind that how we cope may vary depending on the types of stress we are experiencing.

Typical Coping Strategies

  • Denial or avoidance (used to avoid dealing with the issue causing stress)

  • Distancing (removes him or herself from event in an attempt to minimize significance)

  • Confrontation (aggressively confronts with an attempt to change situation)

  • Seeking help or support

  • Blaming (self or others)

  • Acceptance of challenge and responsibility

  • Problem solving

  • Positive Reappraisal

Risk factors leading to Increased anxiety:

  • Trauma

  • Negative change in health or continued poor health

  • Stress buildup

  • Mental health disorder

  • Personality (people with certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders than others).

  • Family history of anxiety disorder

  • History of maladaptive coping or subject of maladaptive parenting

  • Drugs and alcohol

Healthy vs. Maladaptive Coping Strategies:

  • People with healthy coping strategies both identify and acknowledge that a problem exists

  • People with maladaptive coping skills will deny or attempt to minimize the issue, often pretending it does not exist or it suggesting it is not a problem for them.

  • People with healthy coping skills identify and separate the real risks and dangers of a situation without allowing their imagination to make it worst.

  • People with Healthy coping strategies take control of their situation, while those with maladaptive coping strategies allow the situation to take control of them.

  • People with healthy coping skills will seek support when the problem becomes overwhelming. Those with unhealthy coping skills will internalize the problem, leading to interruptions in daily functioning.

  • People with healthy coping skills will take responsibility or ownership of the problem while those with maladaptive skills will simply place blame without action.

Rather than becoming paralyzed with anxiety, you should become mobilized, identifying and developing techniques to deal with the issue. In order to successfully move beyond your problems, you must face it head on. The most important thing you can do is to realize when you've done everything you can, both recognizing and accepting the importance of moving forward.

#CopingStrategies #Maladaptivecoping #HealthyCoping #Anxiety #Stress

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