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Dealing with coping skills gone wrong

July 03, 2013 - Second in a series on coping skills.


Clarkston News Staff Writer

Coping is defined as a personal response to stress used to solve problems.

Last week in the first part of this three-part series, the Clarkston News talked to Abigail, a 37-year-old Clarkston resident who injures herself through cutting. Abigail began cutting at a young age due a lack of positive coping skills.

During her lifetime she has also faced issues with eating disorders and problems with substance abuse-all types of poor coping skills. Using poor coping skills, like self-injury, can lead further down the road of depression, anxiety, increased stress and other disorders.

Since Abigail started seeing Oakland Psychiatric Associates Clinician Dr. Donald Deering three years ago. Since they met, she has been working to overcoming her issues with self-injury. Right now she is working to get rid of a special tool she uses to cut herself when she engages in self injury. "I am still trying to get rid it," she said. Abigail is also learning to identify triggers, a situation or encounter that causes stress, and leads to using a negative coping skill.

Part of her work with Deering is also involves working on developing friendships and fostering positive relationships. He is also helping Abigail develop positive attachments—something she said she has had troubles with in her lifetime.

Abigail has a teenage daughter who has noticed her mom's scars. She said she wants to set a good example for her daughter, and teach her to always be herself and know what she wants and likes in life. "I want to teach her how to experience life," she said. "I don't want her to wait until she is almost 40 to learn how to handle things either."

Abigail also had some advice for people with poor coping skills. "Learn how to enjoy life, how to feel and know what you like," she said.

Eventually she hopes to help others by going back to school and earning a psychology degree or maybe by creating a blog about the issues she has faced. Abigail said having someone to talk to and confide in, like Deering, has really has helped her. "He lets me call him anytime," she said.

Abigail is not alone when it comes to using negative coping skills to deal with stress.

Deering said people use all sorts of coping skills to deal with life issues and stress. There negative coping skills including avoidance, addictions, overeating, eating disorders and excessive anger. However, negative coping skills only cause more stress and bad emotions. The good news is positive coping skills can be developed through hard work and perseverance.

The next article in this series will address positive coping skills like creativity, meditation, healthy living and how these skills can be developed.

What you can do

If someone you love engages in self-injury, here's how you can help:

Seek professional help by talking to your family doctor or pediatrician;

Don't belittle or make the person feel bad or guilty about the behavior;

Let them know you are concerned and care about their well-being and want them to be happy and healthy;

Do not reject the person or beg them to stop the behavior;

If you self-injure:

Confide in someone you trust;

Identify "triggers" that lead to self-injury;

Develop coping skills to seek healthy ways to deal with emotions; and

Seek help from a medical professional.

Staff writer
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