Coping refers to efforts to manage stress. Coping can be adaptive or
maladaptive. Adaptive coping strategies generally involve confronting problems
directly, making reasonably realistic appraisals of problems, recognizing and changing
unhealthy emotional reactions, and trying to prevent adverse effects on the body. Maladaptive
coping includes using alcohol or drugs to escape problems.
Some researchers believe that people have characteristic ways of coping, even in
different sorts of situations. Other researchers believe that people use different coping styles
in different situations and that people’s ways of coping change over time.
There are many different coping strategies. Some common ones include:
- Releasing pent-up emotions by talking or writing about them
- Getting social support
- Reappraising an event or changing perspective on the problem
- Spirituality and faith
- Problem solving
- Comparing oneself to others who are worse off
- Altruism or helping others
- Using defense mechanisms
- Aggressive behavior
- Self-indulgent behavior, such as overeating, smoking, and excessive use of alcohol or
Factors That Improve Coping
Some people cope more effectively than others. Some important factors that influence
coping are social support, optimism, and perceived control:
- Social support: Many studies show that having good social support
correlates with better physical and mental health. Researchers believe that supportive social
networks buffer the effects of stressful circumstances. In stressful situations, a social
network can provide a person with care and comfort, access to helpful resources, and advice
about how to evaluate and manage problems.
- Optimism: A tendency to expect positive outcomes, optimism is
associated with better physical health. Optimistic people are more likely to find social
support, appraise events in less threatening ways, take good care of themselves when sick, and
use active coping strategies that focus on problem solving.
- Perceived control: The term locus of control refers to
people’s perception of whether or not they have control over circumstances in their lives.
People with an internal locus of control tend to believe they have control over
their circumstances. People with an external locus of control tend to believe
that fate, luck, or other people control circumstances. Having an internal locus of control is
associated with better physical and emotional health.