Avoiding Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Trauma

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October is Emotional Wellness Month, and learning about unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma can improve emotional wellness. Unfortunately, unhealthy coping mechanisms can often lead to suffering and harmful habits that lead to substance abuse disorders and escalated mental illness symptoms. On the other hand, education for those who have experienced trauma can lead to the use of healthy and positive coping mechanisms. Therefore, most treatment plans aim to develop strong lifestyle skills that utilize helpful coping mechanisms. 

What is Trauma?

Trauma is an experience or event that results in physical, emotional, or life-threatening harm. Exposure to trauma has long-lasting adverse effects on mental, physical, and emotional health and well-being. In addition, those who do not understand how harmful the traumatic experience is can develop unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma. Moreover, those with substance abuse disorders and mental illness have often experienced trauma in their lives. 

Trauma has a different effect on all people. However, people with a robust support system who practice healthy coping mechanisms may heal from trauma without long-lasting effects. Unfortunately, those with substance abuse disorders and mental illness tend to experience a high rate of trauma in their lives. Professional treatment can resolve unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma. 

What are Coping Mechanisms?

When faced with difficult emotions and feelings, stressful or traumatic situations, it’s difficult to understand how to react. Coping mechanisms are behaviors that make us feel better when something difficult occurs. Positive and healthy coping mechanisms allow us to process and learn from the situation. Conversely, unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma hurt our life. 

Everyone understands that there is no handbook for being a parent. Parents unfamiliar with positive and healthy coping mechanisms can not model this behavior for their children. Positive and healthy coping mechanisms take time to learn and practice. Therefore, unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma can quickly become a habit for relief.   

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Treatment offers education on coping mechanisms. Group and individual therapies can increase our understanding of how trauma affects us and how we react. After this education, it is up to the individual to choose when difficult or traumatic events occur and how they will respond. Learning how to live a healthy and positive lifestyle involves choosing suitable coping mechanisms and leaving behind unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma. 

Examples of Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Trauma

  • Projection is a defensive behavior used to protect the self. Individuals attach unacceptable behaviors, feelings, or emotions to someone else. This distracting behavior allows one to ignore the real problem, which lies within themselves. 
  • Denial provides a false sense of security as an unhealthy coping mechanism for trauma. The self refuses to recognize negative behaviors within, thus denying any problems. Denial, also referred to as repression, is a form of self-deception. 
  • Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs can lead to physical and mental health issues, addiction, overdose, and even death. On the other hand, drug usage offers the addict a feeling of self-acceptance and temporary confidence. 
  • Dissociation deludes the individual into believing that the unacceptable feelings and thoughts are not within themselves. An escape from overwhelming emotions connected to trauma, dissociation is a dangerous, unhealthy coping mechanism for trauma. 

Examples of Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Trauma

  • Exercise and healthy eating habits to produce a positive, healthy lifestyle are the foundation for healthy coping mechanisms. Also, maintaining self-control and forming beneficial physical and mental practices build self-esteem and a specific ability to stay away from unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma. 
  • Developing hobbies, extra interests, and volunteer work offer a positive outlet for anxiety, depression, and stress. Focusing on tasks that bring you out of yourself will allow for positive and healthy coping and break away from unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma. 

How to Change Unhealthy Coping Skills

When unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma have led to addiction and a possible mental illness, the first step must be the commitment to change. Then, agreeing to treatment and making the conscious choice to begin a new sober life must be made. Finally, therapy will help to investigate the traumas and how to answer anxiety, depression, and emotional pain with healthy and positive coping mechanisms for the future. 

Therapies to reverse unhealthy coping mechanisms in trauma include the following.

  • Individual therapy typically includes traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. The addict works with a therapist one-on-one. Finding the roots of the trauma and difficult emotions and feelings can help to recognize triggers of the trauma to help thwart traumatic memories.
  • Group therapy builds a robust support system for like-minded individuals with similar issues.
  • Art therapy takes the individual out of themselves to produce art and expressions to express deep emotions and feelings.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which is helpful for those living with PTSD from traumatic experiences.
  • Family therapy brings a close support system to work on individual emotional distress and strengthens the family unit.

Begin Treating Trauma and Addiction in Los Angeles, CA

Launch Centers in Los Angeles, CA, offers experienced treatment professionals treating trauma-based addictions and mental illness. Our staff has deep empathy and understanding for those traumatized in the past resulting in unhealthy coping mechanisms. In conclusion, participation in our programs can result in a positive and healthy lifestyle. Contact us to speak to an intake specialist and begin the journey. 

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

staff member drug alcohol treatment los angeles

Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

treatment team los angeles ca

Eric Chaghouri, MD


chloe kruskol los angeles rehab team

Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • HO

    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

  • Nicole

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful!!! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

  • Joey

    The staff and clinicians are amazing and make you feel right at home from the second you walk in the door. I would absolutely recommend this place for a family member or close friend.

  • Ben

    This treatment facility has changed my life. I have always struggled with my mental health and this young adult program provided me with the necessary skills to launch to adulthood. I commend anyone who struggles with mental health or substance use (which was not me) to try this program out. It will change your life.

  • Conner

    Launch Centers Treatment was a major help to me. The therapists and staff genuinely cared about me and truly helped me to make a plan for my future. My personal therapists helped me to discover where some of my deeper issues came from. All of the staff worked tirelessly with me to talk through my issues, or just about life, and offered realistic solutions to my current problems and situation. All of the staff went above and beyond and advocated relentlessly for me. I am very grateful that I was able to have such a wonderful experience with Launch.

  • Adam

    In no uncertain terms Launch Centers changed my life. The staff at Launch are professional, knowledgable and relatable. They keep the format diverse and interesting which kept me engaged in the process. The greatest thing we can do in life is seek to improve ourselves. Launch gave me a skill set I consider to be invaluable in the journey of becoming the best version of myself. I would implore anybody considering Launch to step outside their comfort zone and go, you will not regret it.


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