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In psychology, coping is the process of managing taxing circumstances, expending effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize, reduce or tolerate stress or conflict.

In coping with stress, people tend to use one of the three main coping strategies: either appraisal focused, problem focused, or emotion focused coping. (Weiten, Lloyd, 2006)

Appraisal-focused strategies occur when the person modifies the way they think, for example: employing denial, or distancing oneself from the problem. People may alter the way they think about a problem by altering their goals and values, such as by seeing the humour in a situation.

People using problem focused strategies try to deal with the cause of their problem. They do this by finding out information on the disease, learning new skills to manage their disease and rearranging their lives around the disease.

Emotion focused strategies involve releasing pent-up emotions, distracting one-self, managing hostile feelings, meditating, using systematic relaxation procedures, etc.

People may use a mixture of these different types of coping, and coping mechanisms will usually change over time. All these methods can prove useful, but some claim that those using problem focused coping strategies will adjust better to life. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Men often prefer problem focused coping, whereas women can often tend towards an emotion focused response. Problem focused coping mechanisms may allow an individual greater perceived control over their problem, while emotion focused coping may more often lead to a reduction in perceived control. Certain individuals therefor feel that problem focused mechanisms represent a more effective means of coping.(Nicholls & Polman, 2006)

An individual can cope with a taxing situation by either APPROACHING the source of the conflict by addressing it directly, or AVOIDING the problem (for example repression, denial, ignoring it).

Richard Lazarus was co-originator of the theory of coping.

See also


  • Lazarus R. (1969) Pattern of Adjustment and Human Effectiveness
  • Lazarus R. (1984) Stress, Appraisal and Coping
  • Lazarus R. (2005) Coping with Aging
  • Weiten, Wayne & Lloyd, Margaret A. (2006) Psychology Applied to Modern Life. Thomson Wadsworth; Belmont California. ISBN 0-534-60859-0
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