Managing your mood: Unhealthy coping methods

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

sad teen with alcohol

There are many ways to cope with stress and other mental health issues, but some are healthier than others. Let’s look first at some unhealthy methods before covering the methods that will give you longer-term success.

Drugs and alcohol

There are some unsafe and unhealthy ways to deal with stress and other mental health issues. Drugs and alcohol, for instance, may seem like easy answers, but they are not. Both can be very tempting, and your friends may offer them to you, but it is dangerous to use them to try to escape your problems. Using them to deal with stress or pain just adds new problems, such as lower energy, increased anxiety and inability to concentrate. Drugs and alcohol can also lead to addiction, other health problems, and relationship problems with friends, family or your partner.

Impulsive behaviour

Doing impulsive things to deal with stress is also not helpful. If the impulsive behavior is destructive, it can lead to feeling more stressed because of feelings of regret and guilt. In the moment, impulsive activities may make a person feel excited, “alive” and distracted from stress and pain. However, these kinds of activities can be dangerous and are the kinds of things that many people later regret due to their consequences.


A negative coping behaviour that is becoming increasingly common is self-harm. Young people do this for a variety of reasons even though it does not seem logical later on. Self-harm takes many forms; one of the most common is cutting.

Young people tell us that they do this for many reasons to cope. If you are thinking of doing this or ever done this and are thinking about self-harming again, reach out to get help right away. There are other healthier ways to cope that do not put you at risk for infection or serious injuries, and that won’t leave you with disfiguring scars afterwards.

Lashing out at others

When our stress levels are higher, we can be more prone to say or do things to people close to us that we later regret. For instance, when feeling frustrated and angry because of your pain and how it keeps you from doing things you want to do, you might snap at one of your siblings or your partner. Afterwards, this behavior might be followed by regret and guilt. This could actually increase your overall pain.


To learn more about self-injury, including treatments, prevention and available supports, visit the Mayo Clinic website.

Last updated: May 2nd 2016