What is Coping Mechanism

In today’s world, knowing what coping mechanisms are of great use. Why do we say this? It is simply because we are living in a world full of intricacies and complexities. It is rather obvious that not only collectively but individually too our lives have become rather complex. People deal with a strict schedule and are pressed with work. This creates a lot of stress and tension even within the daily routine. Coping mechanism contributes towards reducing this stress and tension through different coping strategies. Stress can be both positive and negative. It is usually a response to change. Coping mechanisms help people to adjust to such situations without risking the well-being of the individual.

Coping Mechanism – Definition

Coping mechanisms can thus be defined as emotions, thoughts, and behaviour that assist to reduce the psychological stress undergone by individuals and promote mental well being, which allows individuals to adjust to the complexities of life.

What is Coping Mechanism

Types of Coping Mechanisms

There are a number of coping mechanisms employed by individuals to deal with stress. Some of these coping mechanisms have a positive effect on the body in relieving the stress these are considered as productive. Others, however, have adverse effects; these are maladaptive and considered as counterproductive.

Coping mechanisms are categorized in different ways by different psychologists. A rather popular categorization of coping mechanisms is as follows.

• Appraisal focused

• Problem focused

• Emotion focused mechanisms

Under the first category of appraisal focused coping mechanism, the focal characteristic is the role of reversal in thinking of a situation. The problem focused coping mechanism includes changing the behaviour in order to adapt to the situation. The final category of emotional focused coping mechanism comprises of changing the emotional state as a reaction to overcoming stress. Under each category, there are a large number of coping mechanisms. Here are some of the widely applied coping mechanisms:

• Altruism

• Adaption

• Attack

• Avoidance

• Compartmentalization

• Crying

• Distancing

• Emotionality

• Denial

• Humour

• Idealization

• Passive aggression

• Provocation

• Somatization

• Substitution

• Trivialization

• Undoing

Especially, when it comes to individuals who are suffering from various addictions, a notable feature is the usage of coping mechanisms in a counterproductive manner. Let us take the case of a heavy smoker. In order to convince himself and others that it will not have a major impact on his health the person can be employing a variety of strategies. For example, trivialization can be seen in such an individual where he would consider the amount of cigarettes that he consumes a day as having very little impact. Another very common coping mechanisms employed by individuals with addiction is denial, where a person would completely reject the very idea. In such a context, the function of coping mechanisms is detrimental to the well-being of the individual.


• Coping mechanisms are emotions, thoughts, and behaviour that help to reduce the psychological stress of individuals.

• It promotes mental well being allowing the person to function as effectively as possible.

• Coping mechanisms can be categorized under three headings, namely, problem focused, emotional focused and appraisal focused mechanisms.

• There are alarge number of coping mechanisms that fall under each category.

• Even though the goal of coping mechanisms is to reduce stress, sometimes these are maladaptive. This can especially be seen in substance users, where coping mechanisms have become counterproductive.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Stress symptoms by Gdudycha (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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