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Coping Mechanisms Used by People with Major Depressive Disorders

written by: EmilyRose • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/9/2011

Coping mechanisms refer to the methods people use to manage their stress and trauma issues. There are a number of action and emotion-based coping mechanisms used by people with major depressive disorder. These can be both adaptive and maladaptive.

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    Coping mechanisms are skills and behaviors that are used to cope with stress and trauma. They can be conscious or unconscious, instinctive or acquired. They may also be used proactively to inoculate the individual prior to the onset of stress or arise as a response to it. Mental illness can be a significant source of stress for individuals. Major depressive disorder is a type of mood disorder that is characterized by a severely depressed mood that persists for a period of at least two weeks. Although it can be chronic and disabling, depressive disorder can also be managed through a combination of talk therapy, a healthy lifestyle and, in severe cases, medication. Adaptive coping mechanisms allow individuals with depression to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. It is important to note, however, that not all coping mechanisms benefit the individual. Some, such as repression and denial, may exacerbate the level of stress experienced by an individual in the long run. Becoming aware of of these maladaptive coping mechanisms will help an individual move to more functional means of managing stress.

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    Action-based Coping Mechanisms

    Common types of coping mehanisms used by people with major depressive disorders include action-based coping. Action-based coping mechanisms utilize external stimuli to help overcome the circumstance, event or emotion that is eliciting stress. Individuals prone to major depressive disorder may use action-based coping mechanisms in a variety of ways. They may engage in physical activity like running or walking, build or create something or participate in altruistic activities like volunteering. Commiting to a treatment plan and enacting the steps required to manage major depressive disorder is another effective coping mechanism.

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    Emotion-based Coping Mechanisms

    Individuals with depression may also use emotions to confront or address the source of distress. Individuals may, for example, utilize relaxation methods like meditation to alleviate stress and anxiety.Talking about an individuals disorder and its associated symptoms are also effective coping mechanisms. Individuals may join a support group, talk to a therapist or arrange a time to meet with a friend or loved one. Many find journalling an effective way of emotionally coping with depression. Journals may be used to create a list of potential triggers or to use positive psychology techniques such as listing things to be thankful for and writing affirmations.

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    Harmful Coping Mechanisms

    Unfortunately not all coping mehanisms used by people with major depressive disorders are adaptive. Projection is a cognitive coping mechanism in which problems are attributed to an external source. Individuals who are in denial about having a mental illness, for example, may attribute their depressed mood to a person or specific situation. Individuals with major depressive disorder may also use repression or denial as coping mechanisms. They will be unwilling to admit that they are severely depressed or need help. These coping mechanisms are maladaptive because they reduce the likelihood that individuals will seek help for their mental illness. Individuals may also turn to drugs, alcohol or other addictive behavior to temporarily exacerbate their depression related distress. Becoming more aware of these maladaptive coping mechanisms can help individuals advance towards more effective and beneficial methods for coping with major depressive disorder.

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    Sources

    Coping Skills: http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/emotional_health/mental_health/coping_skills.shtml

    Coping Skills for Trauma: http://www.ibiblio.org/rcip/copingskills.html

    Coping Strategies and Defense Mechanisms: Basic and Intermediate Defenses: http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?id=9791&cn=353