Negative coping when you are under stress

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Negative coping includes the use of alcohol, drugs, overeating and other risky or aggressive behaviours to cope with stress or anxiety. Find out what you can do to avoid these behaviours or seek support for negative coping.

Key points

  • Negative coping includes unhealthy behaviours that some people may engage in to deal with stress or anxiety.
  • Talk to your doctor or a member of your child's health-care team if you are worried about how you are coping.

It is not uncommon to cope with the stress and emotions associated with caring for a child with cancer by engaging in unhealthy behaviours. These may include abusing alcohol or drugs, overeating, self-harm, risky behaviour, aggressive behaviour, excessive gambling, eating a lot of unhealthy foods or severely restricting what you eat. These can seem like attractive options because, in the very short term, they can relieve anxiety or help you escape your stress. However, in the long term, these ways of coping usually have a negative impact on your well-being and on the well-being of your family.

It is possible to learn new, healthier coping strategies to replace more harmful ones. If you are engaging in negative coping or are worried about how you are coping, professional support can really help. Talk to your doctor or a member of your child’s health-care team. They will be able to recommend resources to help you cope in a way that is safe for yourself and your family.

Sometimes a feeling of shame can prevent people from seeking support to change unhealthy coping habits. But feeling ashamed can actually help the cycle of negative coping to continue. It takes a lot of strength to admit when you need help. Remember that your child will learn coping behaviours from watching you. By seeking support for yourself when you need it, you show your teenager that it’s OK to admit when you’re struggling and to accept help.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019