What is a Coping Mechanism?

by Dorsey McFadden
  1. noun Psychology.

an adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort.Compare defense mechanism (def. 2).

Dictionary.com

Coping mechanisms are the strategies or skills people use to manage a problem. For people with ADHD these coping mechanisms help us manage life better.

When you have ADHD, you’ll need to develop coping mechanisms. In my mind it’s simply another way of saying “trick”. In other words, we can trick ourselves into building good habits.

Think of coping mechanisms as the tricks we use to get around our executive functioning deficiencies. 

Understanding how ADHD manifests in yourself is key to successfully implementing coping mechanisms. 

You may intentionally develop these or naturally adopt them. 

My coping mechanism for the hellish time I have with medication management is to use several pill boxes.

Here are examples of a few for me:

  • I put my keys in the same place every time I come in the door (otherwise they’ll end up someplace strange).
  • I schedule reminders throughout the day.
  • I organize my prescriptions in pill boxes for the month at one time. 

The first step is recognizing you have a problem. ADHD is a big problem in most of our lives, whether we want to admit it or not. It affects our executive functioning skills which translates into a myriad of problems we’ll get into later. When you notice yourself repeating a negative behavior repeatedly, that’s a good sign that you need to find a different way to approach the problem. 

Let’s take a look at one of the coping mechanisms I developed for myself starting with recognizing the problem. The problem was that I kept losing my keys, getting mad at myself, slipping into a shame spiral, and lost time trying to find them. I needed an easy to remember solution. I also needed a trigger or signal to my brain to implement the solution. The trigger part was using my keys to unlock my door at home. The solution is to put them in the same place every time. To make it easy that place is right next to my back door where I most frequently enter. 

How easy is that? 

We are smart people. We just have to look at the problem differently to figure out what works for us. 

I bet if you examine your life you’ll find you’ve already got all kinds of coping mechanisms in place. 

So tell me below, what works for you? Do you have any coping mechanisms you want to share?

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2 comments

Ryan Mayer January 31, 2021 - 3:44 am

This is super helpful! Mind if I feature something about it on my website??

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Dorsey McFadden January 31, 2021 - 4:16 pm

Not at all Ryan!

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