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The 3 Most Common Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

By: Leah Hovey

Life can be stressful, chaotic and consistently busy. It can be hard to find time for ourselves and even when we do find some time for ourselves, we may

want to let loose. There is nothing wrong with having fun from time to time but what happens when the coping mechanisms being used become more harmful than helpful?

Social Media

Many people browse social media throughout the day as a distraction, relaxation method or even just to be “in the know”. It can be addicting to want to know what other people are doing, whether they be famous celebrities or random acquaintances. Andreassen and colleagues demonstrated that time spent on social media correlates with negative effects on self-esteem (2017). Comparing your reality to that which is portrayed on social media by others can give you a false sense of what your reality should be.

Your Social Life

There are times when our friends can really help us. However, sometimes we can use our social life to avoid our problems. In a way to avoid having to sit on our own and think about what is happening for us, we often make plans to go out, grab a coffee, party or consume ourselves with our friends’ problems. While sometimes a great distraction, it fails to adequately address our own mental health concerns. Ask yourself if your social life is inhibiting your ability to pay attention to yourself.

The “Party” Lifestyle

As a post-secondary student, there is a huge amount of stress. School can be extremely time consuming, taking up the majority of your week. Many students use their weekends to party and drink. While many believe this is a way to “de-stress”, it can actually make you more mentally exhausted. A study interviewing almost two thousand Canadian University students concluded there was a correlation between declines in mental health and alcohol misuse (Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 2019). While having the occasional night out is fine, there can be serious repercussions on mental wellness if this becomes a weekly occurrence. Alcohol is a depressant which means that it “can disrupt the balance of chemicals, affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions – and sometimes our long-term mental health” (DrinkAware, 2016).

Takeaway: Relying solely on distractions as coping mechanisms disables our ability to address our mental health concerns adequately.


Alcohol and mental health. (March, 2016). Retrieved from

Andreassen, C. S., Pallesen, S., & Griffiths, M. D. (2017). The relationship between addictive use of social media, narcissism, and self-esteem: Findings from a large national survey. Addictive behaviors, 64, 287-293.

Henderson, L., Thompson, K., Hudson, A., Dobson, K., Chen, S. P., & Stewart, S. (2019). An Analysis of Campus Culture, Mental Health, and Drinking at Three Canadian Universities. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 37(3), 97-113. Chicago

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