Our Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

One way to understand our addiction, depression and other mental health issues is to see that they are essentially the unhealthy coping mechanisms we’ve developed in response to our emotional pain. Very often we don’t understand why we struggle the way we do, why we’re suffering so much. While we’re in the midst of our addictive and depressive cycles, we might not yet be aware of the root causes of our pain. We’re not conscious of the interconnectedness of all our issues. As we learn more about ourselves, we start to see that the addictions and mental health issues we’ve developed are manifestations of how we learned to cope with our pain over the years. Here are some of the many unhealthy coping mechanisms we turn to.


Many of us who are living with emotional pain don’t know how to communicate it with other people. Facing it on our own is hard enough, and expressing it to others can feel impossible. Perhaps we were silenced, criticized or judged by others. We might have been abused or neglected and didn’t receive the emotional support we needed. We retreat inwards and often stop talking to other people. We isolate ourselves and even cut people off, ending relationships with people who may have been trying to help us.

Suppressing Our Emotions

When our emotions are painful, they can feel unbearable. Very often we will try to bury our pain where it will be less visible, less tangible, where we think we won’t see or feel it as much. We suppress our pain, not knowing how to face it. We bottle it up, trying to avoid it. We try not to think about it. We try to distract ourselves with our drugs of choice. Our minds develop toxic thought patterns that distract us from the root issues. Suppressing our emotions is at the root of many of our addictions and mental health issues, and it is one of the most common forms of unhealthy coping mechanisms we turn to.


When we can’t face the weight of our painful issues, we often try to deflect them onto other situations and people. We might blame other people for our choices. We might try to make excuses for our mistakes and wrongdoings. We might be angry with the people who confront us about our addictions. We may blame the world, or our families, or anything else we can find outside of ourselves for our circumstances, rather than working to see how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors manifested them.

Recognizing our unhealthy coping mechanisms is an important part of the recovery process. Call (800) 871-5440.