When you’re stressed, you can respond in helpful ways or unhelpful ways. Learning early to respond in those helpful ways (“adaptive coping”) can lead to much better mental health down the road.
A new study found that obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferers tend to be lacking in these healthy coping skills. Instead, they tend to use “maladaptive” skills that temporarily relieve stressed feelings but do nothing to improve the stressful situation.
Examples of adaptive skills include problem solving, meditation, acceptance, and writing in a journal.
Maladaptive responses include getting drunk, avoiding situations, suppressing feelings, and obsessive compulsive rituals.
The study authors point out it’s important to teach all children how to deal with stress in healthy ways:
“Coping skills are important for many aspects of daily life beyond mental health. Teaching children skills such as how to cope with bullying at school, poor performance or problems with their parents, for example, in the framework of general cognitive preventative treatment and resilience training in school, may help children to better deal with emotional turmoil and challenging situations during adolescence. It may also prevent the progression of a vulnerability to later obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression as well as other disorders.”
A basic framework for solving problems can be applied across most stressful situations. The Cognitive Behavioral Research Group at the University of Florida recommends using the acronym CHARGE to remember the best way to cope with social stressors:
Check – See If You’re Angry
Hold on – Calm Down & Think
Analyze – Figure Out the Cause
Reflect – On Possible Solutions
Go for it – Pick a Solution
Evaluate – See What Happened
People suffering from OCD most likely need more than an acronym to deal with their obsessions and compulsions. Learning to choose adaptive over maladaptive coping skills can make life a lot better. Therapy – especially Exposure Response Prevention – and medication can help!