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Destructive Coping Mechanisms in Front Line Medical Professionals

Table of Contents

Healthcare Worker in PPE

Never have our front-line medical professionals been subject to such high levels of stress on the job, which can affect their ability to function both at work and in personal relationships. The link between stress in the medical field and addictive behavior is clear. However, addictions can come in many forms, and non-substance abusing habits can often be destructive as well.

Stress and Behavioral Problems

A number of studies indicate that medical professionals may be more vulnerable to developing an addiction than the general population. These individuals are often engaged in situations where people may have died or been injured. And those are at the best of times. Today, a constant stream of gravely ill patients is the norm and there’s no known end to this pandemic. Noise, chaos and uncontrolled behavior are often part of the job. The medical professionals themselves may be in danger of being infected as they work to help others.

This elevated state of stress causes disturbances in the chemical makeup of the brain. The “fight-or-flight” hormones and other neurotransmitters lead to automatic responses in both the body and the mind. In order to deal with the intense sensations and feelings generated by these chaotic incidents, many seek ways to distract themselves and may engage in behaviors that produce soothing chemicals in the brain.

Whether or not they have developed post-traumatic stress disorder from working in incredibly stressful circumstances, individuals may look to drugs or alcohol to manage symptoms and provide relief from the recurring memories of illness and death.

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Non-Substance Destructive Coping Mechanisms

An addiction does not necessary involve using a substance that is illegal or socially unacceptable. Uncontrollable impulses can develop in different types of behavior, such as video game playing, watching pornography, eating, shopping or other habits.

Gambling Addiction

For many, gambling seems to be a harmless habit that that allows individuals to blow off steam in a controlled and enjoyable manner that is not anti-social or destructive. However, for some, it can become an addiction and can cause them to lose savings, homes and relationships due to uncontrollable impulses to continue despite a clearly detrimental outcome. Some medical professionals may choose gambling as a stress-relieving pastime because it allows them to socialize with others and diverts their attention from the stress they experience on the job.

Shopping Addiction

Shopping can be a compelling diversion from disturbing thoughts of high-intensity work. The shopper can enjoy engaging in the search for appealing goods for hours, indulging in the colors and textures of new items and can then get repeated emotional payoffs purchasing the desirable items for their needs. However, shopping addiction can quickly become a compulsive need to buy items, whether they are needed or not, which can lead to debt problems, conflicts with loved ones and loss of self-esteem.

Sex as a Destructive Coping Mechanism

Some individuals look to sex to provide relief from the feelings of chronic stress. In fact, the thrill of the chase and subsequent satisfaction can provide a significant diversion from thoughts of work. However, the constant need to find new partners can be detrimental to forming long-term, satisfying relationships and can cause continual disruptions in their personal lives.

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Addictive behavior, whether or not in the form of substances, is frequently used to escape unpleasant thoughts and emotions and soothe physical distress. However, these destructive coping mechanisms can often become a bad influence that leads to mental and emotional problems, financial hardship, legal entanglements and damage to personal relationships.

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