Examples of unhealthy Coping Strategies worksheet

What is the theory behind this worksheet?

 This worksheet is based on The Health Theory of Coping, which “recognizes coping reactions are adaptive and may initially reduce distress and categorizes these strategies as either healthy or unhealthy, depending on their likelihood of adverse consequences” (Stallman, 2020).

How will the worksheet help

This worksheet is meant to help clients identify what unhealthy coping strategies they might have adopted in order to start using better and healthier ones.

How to use the worksheet

People use coping strategies to reduce distress. Unhealthy coping strategies are used when people want to feel better when their healthy coping strategies fail to reduce distress, even though they have a risk of additional adverse consequences (Stallman et al., 2021). Here we present to you several unhealthy coping strategies that you might be practicing yourself. Use the following examples and see if you can think of situations where you used these coping strategies, in order to come up with better and healthier ones.

 Examples of unhealthy Coping Strategies worksheet

  1. Disassociation – Whenever you feel anxious before an important event, let’s say a meeting at work, you pretend that you are someone else, perhaps someone more confident and assertive. However, as soon as the meeting starts or someone mentions your name, you find it hard to breathe.
  1. Denial – You constantly worry about tomorrow’s meeting at work. Just the thought of it makes you feel nauseous. But the moment someone is asking you if there is anything wrong, you respond “No, everything is great” and keep your worries to yourself.
  1. Excessive information seeking – You are worried about a loved one’s health and safety so you constantly use the internet to find information about different possible illnesses and keep messaging and calling the person in question, in case they might show one of the symptoms you read about on the internet.

  2. Obsessive checking – After there was a robbery in your building apartament, you can’t leave the building apartament without checking if you locked the door several times. After a while, you start checking more than usual if you have locked your car or office desk.

  3. Rituals – You might feel that before each exam you need to eat the same “lucky” necklace. If you can’t find it before the exam, you start to panic.

  4. Procrastination – The upcoming exams are getting closer and closer to you, but instead of studying and reviewing your notes, you might find yourself going out to party, watching this new series on Netflix. You keep putting it off as much as possible.
  5. List making – You organize every action you have to make through the day, even things like brushing teeth or combing your hair, into a list that you check several times a day.

  6. Excessive reassurance – You are into a new relationship and things are looking great between the two of you, but for some reason, you keep fear that your partner stopped loving you so you make them say that they love you quite often.

  7. Impulsiveness – You might have some difficulties in asking people out. However, everytime you meet a new person at work or at a party, you immediately ask them if they are available. None of these people you talked to seemed interested in you though.

  8. Doing everything yourself – Everytime there is time to eat, you are the one who is cooking. Your spouse and children ask if they could help or make the food themselves, but you refuse them because you are worried that they might not do a good job.

  9.  Doing everything for others  – You are worried about your children’s school performance so you are the one who always does their homeworks and school projects.

  10. Self-medication – You are afraid of flying with a plane so before getting into the plane, you always take a “shot” of vodka.

  11. Bad habits – You might be worried that you won’t get that job you wanted and the only thing that keeps you from thinking about it is shopping.


Stallman, H. M. (2020). Health theory of coping. Australian Psychologist, 55(4), 295-306.

Stallman, H. M., Beaudequin, D., Hermens, D. F., & Eisenberg, D. (2021). Modelling the relationship between healthy and unhealthy coping strategies to understand overwhelming distress: A Bayesian network approach. Journal of Affective Disorders Reports, 3, 100054. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadr.2020.100054

‌You can download this worksheet here.

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