If you have the symptoms of PTSD, you may try to deal with problems in ways that cause more harm than good. This is called negative coping. Negative coping means you use quick fixes that may make a situation worse in the long run.
Taking a lot of drugs or alcohol to feel better is called substance abuse. You may try and use drugs or alcohol to escape your problems, help you sleep, or make your symptoms go away.
Substance abuse can cause serious problems. Drinking or using drugs can put your relationships, your job, and your health at risk. You may become more likely to be mean or violent. When under the influence of alcohol or drugs, people often make bad decisions.
Certain social situations may cause you stress, make you angry, or remind you of bad memories. Because of this, you may try to avoid doing things with other people. You may even avoid your friends and family.
Avoiding others can make you feel isolated. Isolation is when you tend to be alone a lot, rather than spending time around other people. Yet social support is critical to healthy coping.
When you distance yourself from others, your problems may seem to build up. You may have more negative thoughts and feelings like sadness and fear. You may feel like you're facing life all alone.
Take part in social activities even if you don't feel like it. It will increase the chances you have to feel good and have fun.
After going through a trauma, it may seem reasonable to try to stay extra alert. You may be on the lookout for danger at all times. However, this way of coping doesn't work. You end up feeling stressed, fearful, and worn out.
Trying to avoid bad memories or trying to shut out feelings may seem reasonable. However, they don't work because trauma controls your life if you run from it. If you avoid thinking about the trauma or if you avoid seeking help, you may keep distress at bay for a time, but at a cost. This behavior also prevents you from making progress in how you cope with trauma and its consequences.
You may feel a lot of anger at times. Your anger may cause you to lose your temper and do reckless things. You may distance yourself from people who want to help.
This is understandable. It's natural to feel angry after going through something traumatic. But anger and violent behavior can cause problems in your life and make it harder for you to recover.
You also may cope by doing things that are risky or dangerous. For example, you may drive too fast or be quick to start a fight when someone upsets you. You may end up hurting yourself or someone else.
Certain ways of dealing with stress can be dangerous. If you start smoking or smoke more, you put your health in danger. Eating to relieve stress also can be dangerous if you gain too much weight.
Work is a good thing. You learn new things, interact with others, and gain confidence. But working too much can be a form of avoidance. You may be working to avoid memories or to help yourself forget about the trauma. This is negative because:
Learning how to cope with PTSD is part of your recovery. You can read about positive ways to cope with traumatic stress in our Self-Help and Coping section. You will also find information there about lifestyle changes that can help you cope with PTSD.