There are many types of coping mechanisms that people typically resort to using when dealing with stress or hardship. There are many unexpected, unpredictable and unforeseen circumstances that people face in their lives that cause difficulty, stress and hardship and people use coping mechanisms in order to reduce or avoid these stresses. Some coping mechanisms are positive while many are negative and can become habitual and sub-conscious. People implement coping strategies differently and the strategies can be either conscious or unconscious responses to certain stimuli (e.g. other people or situations).
Asking yourself consciously “What coping mechanisms or strategies do I use?” can be a first step in identifying poor habits and moving towards resolution. Professional help can be of great assistance in bring out what mechanisms are being implemented and changing to need and better strategies.
In psychology, “coping mechanism” has been defined by Susan Folkman and Richard Lazarus as constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person.
8 major types of coping mechanisms groupings are listed below. There are many others and various names have been given to the different approaches.
Adaptive coping mechanism
This type of coping mechanism involves positive action rather than falling into destructive patterns. The approach used is to understand the underlying issues and adjust to the new environment or situation.
Attack coping mechanism
Attack is typically a negative type of coping mechanism. In this strategy the person is trying guard himself against negative behavior of others through attack. In effect they attempt to avoid their own discomfort through attacking or blaming others.
Avoidance coping mechanism
This is a more passive method of coping because the person simply avoids facing uncomfortable situations. It often means avoiding or withdrawing physically and mentally from the situation including keeping away from the people or situations they dislike. An example is changing the topic of conversation when discussions are causing tension. Although seemingly benign, this approach can be very limiting. Heavy drinking and substance abuse can be avoidance.
Behavioral coping mechanism
Behavioral coping strategies can also be conscious and positive but can be a natural tendency. In this method, a person will adapt how he behaves in changing situations. The person will usually read other people, assess the situation and then behave accordingly in order to avoid negative outcomes.
Cognitive coping mechanism
Cognitive mechanism is another type of harmless coping mechanism yet it may have negative outcome to the person doing this method. In this strategy, the person changes the way he thinks by converting unwanted thoughts into something pleasant. At first, this strategy might be helpful but eventually this will lead the person into fantasizing. As a result, the person will be separated from reality and he will not be able to recognize the real issue. Later, it will be difficult to the person to begin to understand what is happening around him.
Conversion coping mechanism
This type of coping mechanism will give a negative result because the mental conflict of the person is expressed through physical symptoms. This is a subconscious effect to a person in which symptoms from mild to severe may occur such as headache, seizure or paralysis. The manifestation of a symptom communicates what the person if feeling inside. The nervous twitch is an example.
Defense coping mechanism
When a stressful situation occurs, the mind immediately increases its capacity in solving the problem or it seeks a rational ways of escaping bad situations. People using the defense coping mechanism use this creative energy to create false but potentially credible justification what happened or denying what occurred. This is a damaging pattern to fall into.
Self-Harm coping mechanism
Self-harm as a strategy is often a call for help manifested by harming or attacking oneself physically or psychologically. Thought of suicide also comes along in this type of coping mechanism. It also includes psychological problem that shifted into physical and subconscious symptoms such as heart problem.