As human beings, we all have needs. Some of our needs are basic, like food, water, and shelter. Others are more complex, like love, belonging, and self-esteem. When our needs are met, we feel happy, healthy, and fulfilled. But when our needs are unmet, we can experience a range of negative emotions, including anger, sadness, and anxiety.
In some cases, we may try to cope with unmet needs by engaging in maladaptive behaviours – engaging in activities that are harmful to ourselves or others. They can include things like emotional eating, shopping sprees, substance abuse, and self-harm.
Common Maladaptive Behaviours
● Emotional eating (also known as stress eating) is a common maladaptive behaviour that people use to cope with stress, anxiety, and boredom. When we eat emotionally, we’re not actually hungry. We’re using food to numb our emotions or to avoid dealing with difficult feelings.
● When we go on shopping sprees, we’re not actually buying things that we need. We’re buying things to make us feel better about ourselves or to fill a void in our lives. Often times, for the majority of us, it leaves us with unnecessary items and credit card debts while still feeling something ‘amiss’.
● Substance abuse is another common maladaptive behaviour. When we use substances, we’re using them to escape from our problems or to numb our emotions. Substance abuse can lead to a number of serious problems, including addiction, health problems, and financial problems.
● Self-harm is a behaviour that people use to cope with emotional pain. When we self-harm, we’re intentionally inflicting pain on ourselves. This can include things like cutting, burning, or hitting ourselves. Self-harm is a sign of emotional distress and it’s important to seek help if you’re struggling with this.
● Passive-aggressive behaviour refers to expressing anger or resentment indirectly, through actions rather than words. This can include things like sulking, procrastinating, or being sarcastic.
If you find yourself engaging in maladaptive behaviours, it’s important to seek help.
How to Cope with Unmet Needs in Healthy Ways
There are a number of healthy ways to cope with unmet needs. These include:
● Practice self-care. Taking care of your physical and mental health is important for your overall well-being. This includes things like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.
● Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy. Doing things that you enjoy can help you to relax and to feel good about yourself.
● Identify your needs. The first step to coping with unmet needs is to identify what your needs are. Once you know what your needs are, you can start to figure out how to meet them.
● Start to express your emotions and needs without suppressing them. It is noteworthy to realise that there are no bad emotions. Emotions come up in us to tell us something. Suppressing them eventually lead us to finding ways to manage or express them in the wrong or unhealthy ways such as rage, or behaviours shared above.
● Set boundaries and learn to say No. Adding on from the above point, it’s important to set boundaries with others so that you don’t overextend yourself. This means saying no to things that you don’t want to do and protecting your time and energy.
● Set realistic goals. When you’re trying to meet your needs, it’s important to set realistic goals. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Start small and gradually work your way up to bigger goals.
● Practice mindfulness and reflective exercises. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It can help you to become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and needs. Reflective exercises like journaling can be a helpful way to process your thoughts and feelings, track your progress and to identify patterns in your behaviour.
● Challenge your negative thoughts. When you have negative thoughts about yourself, challenge them. Ask yourself if they are really true. Are you really as bad as you think you are? Once you challenge your negative thoughts, you can start to replace them with more positive ones.
● Accept yourself for who you are. It is important to accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all. This does not mean that you cannot strive to improve yourself, but it does mean that you should not beat yourself up for not being perfect. Everyone has flaws, and that is okay.
● Reach out to someone you trust. It could be a family member, a friend, someone on a helpline or a therapist. Talking about your feelings can help you to process them and to feel less alone. Trained support can help you to understand your needs, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and work through any underlying issues.
● Build your self-esteem. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. It is important to have healthy self-esteem in order to cope with unmet needs. There are many things you can do to build your self-esteem, such as setting goals and achieving them, taking care of yourself, and surrounding yourself with positive people.
● It may be worth exploring your childhood. Our childhood experiences can have a big impact on our needs and how we cope with them. Taking some time to explore your childhood can help you to understand your needs better.
● Identify your triggers. What are the things that tend to trigger your unmet needs? Once you know your triggers, you can start to develop strategies for coping with them.
● Be patient with yourself. It takes time to learn how to cope with unmet needs in a healthy way. Don’t get discouraged if you slip up sometimes. Just keep trying and eventually you will find what works for you.
● Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion is the practice of being kind and understanding to yourself, even when you make mistakes. It can help you to be more patient with yourself and to cope with difficult emotions.
● Join a support group. A support group can provide you with a safe space to share your experiences and to connect with others who are struggling with similar issues.
● Self-help books can also provide insights, information and support as you work through your unmet needs.
● Remember that you’re not alone. There are many people who struggle with unmet needs. You’re not the only one. There are people who care about you and who want to help. Please reach out for help if you need it.
It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to coping with unmet needs. What works for one person may not work for another. The important thing is to find what works for you and to be patient with yourself.
Here are some therapeutic techniques that can be used to help people cope with unmet needs:
- ● Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their unmet needs.
- ● Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can help people accept their unmet needs and focus on living a meaningful life despite them.
- ● Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) can help people develop skills for regulating their emotions and coping with stress.
- ● Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can help people process traumatic memories that may be contributing to their unmet needs.
- ● Internal Family Systems (IFS) help people connect with their Self, the part of them that is wise, compassionate, and resourceful. By understanding the parts of themselves that are trying to meet those needs, people can learn to work with those parts in a more healthy and productive way.
Therapy can be an effective way to cope with unmet needs. If you are struggling to cope with unmet needs, please reach out for help. There are many people who care about you and who want to help.