Home Anxiety What Is a Coping Mechanism?

What Is a Coping Mechanism?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: I am trying to understand Coping Mechanisms. Is it possible for a Bias to be a Coping Mechanism, specifically Normalcy-Bias?

A “coping mechanism” is simply a tactic that an individual uses to cope with life’s challenges. Sometimes it is so automatic that the person doesn’t even realize that he or she is using such a tool. An example might be calling a friend to talk when you are upset. The conversation is a way you might cope with something difficult. Other coping mechanisms are more deliberate. An example might be consciously taking slow breaths or meditating to calm down.

Sure, the “normalcy bias” can be a tool for coping — although it is also potentially not helpful. The normalcy bias is an automatic response to disaster or tragedy where the person minimizes the effect of the situation and lets him or herself believe that everything will go back to normal. Sometimes it is a helpful form of denial that gets people through.

But sometimes the result is that the individual doesn’t take steps to deal with a problem. A good example of when the normalcy bias is not helpful is some people’s response to, say, a wildfire that is bearing down on their area. If they convince themselves that it isn’t happening (that things are “normal”) and tell themselves, “These fires always happen this time of year. They never get to my neighborhood”, they might not evacuate in time.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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