Coping with Scam Victim Trauma: Exploring Positive and Negative Coping Mechanisms

Scam Victim Recovery Psychology

Authors:
•  Vianey Gonzalez B.Sc(Psych) – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Psychology Advisory Panel & Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

In the aftermath of becoming a victim to a scam, individuals often grapple with a myriad of emotions and challenges, leading to the adoption of coping mechanisms, both positive and negative.

Positive coping strategies such as seeking social support, practicing mindfulness, and engaging in constructive activities can facilitate recovery, healing and resilience.

Conversely, negative coping mechanisms like avoidance, substance abuse, and self-blame can exacerbate emotional distress and hinder recovery.

Recognizing these coping patterns is critical for obtaining targeted support and intervention for scam victims. By encouraging open communication, offering practical assistance, and promoting healthy coping strategies, victims and their supporters can empower individuals to navigate the complexities of post-scam recovery with resilience and hope.

SCARS Scam Victim Support & Recovery Program

Coping Mechanisms and Scam Victim Trauma: Exploring How Positive and Negative Coping Mechanisms Improve or Damage Scam Victim Recovery

Scam victimization can inflict profound emotional and psychological trauma on scam victims, leaving them grappling with feelings of betrayal, shame, and financial devastation and struggling with coping mechanisms.

Coping with such trauma is a complex process that often involves a range of coping mechanisms, both positive and negative. In this article, we delve into the various coping strategies employed by scam victims, examining their efficacy, implications, and potential for healing.

Positive Coping Mechanisms

  1. Seeking Social Support: One of the most effective ways for scam victims to cope with their trauma is by seeking social support from friends, family, or support groups. Sharing their experiences with others who understand and empathize with their plight can provide validation, comfort, and a sense of belonging. Professionally managed support can also offer practical advice and coping strategies, empowering victims to navigate their recovery journey more effectively.
  2. Engaging in Self-Care Practices: Engaging in self-care practices such as exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help scam victims manage stress, anxiety, and depression. Taking time to focus on their physical and emotional well-being allows individuals to recharge, build resilience, and regain a sense of control over their lives. Additionally, self-care activities provide opportunities for self-reflection and introspection, facilitating the processing of traumatic experiences.
  3. Seeking Professional Help: Seeking professional help in support groups, and from therapists, counselors, or mental health professionals is essential for scam victims struggling to cope with trauma. Therapy provides a safe and supportive environment for individuals to explore their emotions, confront maladaptive coping patterns, and develop healthy coping strategies. Therapeutic modalities such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can help scam victims reframe negative beliefs, process traumatic memories, and rebuild their sense of self.

Negative Coping Mechanisms:

Avoidance and Denial

In the aftermath of a scam, many victims resort to avoidance and denial as coping mechanisms, attempting to suppress or numb their painful emotions. However, avoiding or denying the reality of their trauma only serves to prolong their suffering and impedes the healing process. By refusing to confront their feelings, victims may inadvertently exacerbate their psychological distress and hinder their recovery efforts.

Avoidance and denial are common coping mechanisms that individuals employ when faced with traumatic experiences such as falling victim to a scam. While these strategies may offer temporary relief from distressing emotions, they can ultimately impede the healing process and perpetuate psychological suffering.

Here are some examples of avoidance and denial coping mechanisms:

  • Ignoring or downplaying the severity of the scam
  • Refusing to discuss or acknowledge the scam with others
  • Pretending that the scam never happened
  • Avoiding situations or triggers that remind them of the scam
  • Distracting themselves with work, hobbies, or other activities to avoid thinking about the scam
  • Minimizing the impact of the scam on their finances or emotional well-being
  • Rationalizing the scam as a one-time event that won’t happen again
  • Blaming themselves or others for the scam
  • Engaging in excessive internet or social media use to escape from thoughts of the scam
  • Using humor or sarcasm to deflect conversations about the scam
  • Suppressing emotions related to the scam, such as anger, shame, or sadness
  • Avoiding seeking help or support from others
  • Turning to substances such as alcohol or drugs to numb emotional pain
  • Engaging in risky behaviors as a form of self-sabotage
  • Obsessively focusing on unrelated problems or concerns to avoid addressing the scam
  • Engaging in anger-based activities, such as vigilantism, scammer exposing, or scam baiting
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors, such as self-harm or reckless spending
  • Withdrawing from social interactions or cutting off contact with friends and family
  • Projecting feelings of guilt or shame onto others instead of taking responsibility for their own actions
  • Engaging in excessive work or productivity to avoid confronting emotions related to the scam
  • Resorting to magical thinking or superstitions to avoid facing reality
  • Dismissing or discounting the experiences of others who have been scammed
  • Creating a false sense of security by avoiding situations where they may be vulnerable to scams in the future
  • Seeking constant reassurance or validation from others to avoid feelings of insecurity or inadequacy
  • Suppressing memories of the scam through dissociation or dissociative amnesia
  • Engaging in religious or spiritual practices as a means of escaping from thoughts of the scam
  • Engaging in excessive exercise or physical activity to distract from thoughts of the scam
  • Seeking constant validation through social media or online interactions to avoid feelings of insecurity
  • Blaming external factors or circumstances for falling victim to the scam
  • Avoiding discussions about personal finances or budgeting to evade feelings of financial insecurity
  • Creating a false narrative or alternative reality where the scam never occurred
  • Seeking out conspiracy theories or alternative explanations to justify the scam
  • Engaging in thrill-seeking or risky behaviors to distract from feelings of vulnerability
  • Dismissing the severity of the scam by comparing it to the experiences of others
  • Procrastinating or delaying important tasks or responsibilities to avoid confronting the aftermath of the scam
  • Engaging in compulsive or repetitive behaviors as a form of distraction
  • Using humor or sarcasm to mask feelings of fear or uncertainty about the future
  • Developing a cynical or pessimistic outlook on life as a defense mechanism against further disappointment
  • Avoiding seeking professional help or therapy out of fear of judgment or stigma
  • Engaging in self-isolating behaviors to avoid confronting feelings of shame or embarrassment
  • Engaging in excessive spending or retail therapy to cope with feelings of loss or inadequacy
  • Engaging in excessive cleaning or organizing as a means of regaining control in other areas of life
  • Avoiding making long-term plans or commitments to evade feelings of uncertainty about the future
  • Overworking or burning oneself out to avoid confronting emotions related to the scam
  • Engaging in passive-aggressive behaviors as a way to express anger or frustration indirectly
  • Using substances such as food or caffeine to cope with feelings of anxiety or stress
  • Engaging in escapist behaviors such as binge-watching television or movies to avoid reality
  • Repeatedly checking email or social media for updates or messages related to the scam
  • Engaging in self-blame or self-criticism as a means of avoiding holding others accountable for the scam
  • Avoiding seeking legal recourse or restitution out of fear of retaliation or further victimization
  • Engaging in excessive planning or list-making as a way to avoid addressing underlying emotions or issues

While avoidance and denial coping mechanisms may provide temporary relief, they ultimately hinder the process of healing and recovery. It is essential for individuals to recognize and address these maladaptive strategies in order to confront their emotions, seek support, and move forward in a healthy and productive manner.

Substance Abuse

Escaping into substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs, is another negative coping mechanism adopted by some scam victims.

Substance abuse provides temporary relief from emotional pain and distress but ultimately exacerbates mental health issues and complicates recovery. Moreover, substance abuse can lead to addiction, financial problems, and further victimization, perpetuating a cycle of harm and self-destruction.

Isolation and Withdrawal

Feeling ashamed or embarrassed about their victimization, some individuals may withdraw from social interactions and isolate themselves from others. Isolation intensifies feelings of loneliness, alienation, and despair, exacerbating the impact of trauma on mental health and well-being. Furthermore, withdrawing from support networks deprives victims of valuable resources and prevents them from accessing the assistance they need to heal and recover.

Isolation and withdrawal are common coping mechanisms that scam victims may employ as they navigate the aftermath of falling prey to a scam. Here are some additional insights into isolation and withdrawal, along with examples of behaviors that scam victims might exhibit:

Isolation involves distancing oneself from others emotionally, socially, or physically, while withdrawal entails removing oneself from social interactions or activities altogether. Both can serve as ways for scam victims to shield themselves from further emotional harm or to cope with feelings of shame, embarrassment, or vulnerability.

Behaviors Associated with Isolation and Withdrawal:

  • Avoiding social gatherings or events where the scam might be discussed or brought up.
  • Declining invitations from friends or family members to spend time together.
  • Disconnecting from social media platforms or online communities to avoid reminders of the scam.
  • Ignoring phone calls, texts, or emails from loved ones out of fear of judgment or criticism.
  • Refusing to seek help or support from others, including mental health professionals or support groups.
  • Spending long periods alone at home, avoiding contact with others as much as possible.
  • Canceling appointments or meetings with friends, family, or professionals without explanation.
  • Lying or making excuses to avoid disclosing details about the scam or its impact on their life.
  • Preferring solitary activities such as reading, watching television, or engaging in hobbies alone.
  • Withdrawing from previously enjoyed activities or interests due to a lack of motivation or interest.

Effects of Isolation and Withdrawal

Isolation and withdrawal can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety, leading to further emotional distress for scam victims. Additionally, these behaviors can hinder the healing process and delay recovery by preventing individuals from accessing support networks or seeking professional help. Prolonged isolation may also contribute to feelings of alienation and disconnection from others, making it harder for scam victims to rebuild trust and relationships in the long term.

Addressing Isolation and Withdrawal

Recognizing the signs of isolation and withdrawal is the first step toward addressing these behaviors and supporting scam victims in their recovery journey. Encouraging open communication, providing a non-judgmental space for sharing experiences, and offering practical assistance can help individuals feel less isolated and more supported during this challenging time. Encouraging participation in social activities, reconnecting with loved ones, and seeking professional counseling or therapy can also help scam victims gradually overcome feelings of isolation and withdrawal and rebuild their sense of connection and belonging.

Recognizing and Overcoming Negative Coping Mechanisms in Scam Victims

Becoming a scam victim can have devastating consequences, not only financially but also emotionally and psychologically.

In the aftermath of a scam, individuals may resort to negative coping mechanisms as they struggle to process their experiences and navigate the challenges of recovery. Recognizing these coping mechanisms is necessary for scam victims themselves and for providing appropriate support and intervention to scam victims.

Identifying Negative Coping Mechanisms:

  • Isolation and Withdrawal: Scam victims may withdraw from social interactions and isolate themselves out of shame, embarrassment, or fear of judgment.
  • Avoidance and Denial: Some individuals may avoid confronting the reality of their situation and deny the impact of the scam on their lives, leading to further emotional distress.
  • Substance Abuse: Coping with the trauma of being scammed may drive individuals to turn to alcohol, drugs, or other substances as a means of escape.
  • Escapism: Engaging in excessive screen time, gaming, or other activities to distract oneself from facing the consequences of the scam.
  • Self-Blame and Guilt: Scam victims may internalize feelings of blame and guilt, believing they should have known better or prevented the scam from happening.
  • Financial Recklessness: Some individuals may engage in impulsive spending or risky financial behavior as a way to regain a sense of control or cope with feelings of loss.
  • Emotional Numbing: Suppressing or numbing emotions through avoidance or detachment, making it difficult to process feelings of grief, anger, or betrayal.

Overcoming Negative Coping Mechanisms:

  • Encourage Open Communication: Create a safe and non-judgmental space for scam victims to express their feelings and share their experiences without fear of criticism or stigma. However, always be honest – brutally honest if needed.
  • Provide Emotional Support: Offer empathy, validation, and reassurance to help individuals feel understood and supported as they navigate their emotions and coping strategies.
  • Offer Practical Assistance: Provide practical help with financial planning, debt management, or legal assistance to alleviate the stress and burden of the scam’s aftermath.
  • Promote Healthy Coping Strategies: Encourage engagement in positive coping mechanisms such as exercise, mindfulness, creative expression, or seeking professional counseling.
  • Encourage Social Connections: Facilitate opportunities for social support and connection by encouraging participation in support groups, community activities, or reconnecting with friends and family.
  • Challenge Negative Beliefs: Help individuals challenge self-blame, guilt, and other negative beliefs by reframing their thoughts and focusing on self-compassion and resilience.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Encourage individuals to set achievable goals for recovery, whether financial, emotional, or personal, and celebrate progress along the way.
  • Seek Professional Help: Encourage scam victims to seek professional support, and counseling or therapy from mental health professionals experienced in trauma and post-scam recovery.

Summary

Coping with scam victim trauma requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the positive and negative coping mechanisms employed by individuals. While seeking social support, engaging in self-care practices, and seeking professional help can facilitate healing and resilience, avoidance, substance abuse, and isolation only serve to perpetuate suffering and impede recovery. By raising awareness of effective coping strategies and providing support and resources to scam victims, we can empower individuals to overcome trauma, reclaim their lives, and thrive in the aftermath of victimization.

Recognizing and addressing negative coping mechanisms in scam victims is essential for promoting healing, resilience, and recovery. By providing support, empathy, and practical assistance, we can help individuals overcome the challenges of scam victimization and rebuild their lives with strength and resilience. Together, we can empower scam victims to reclaim their sense of agency, restore trust, and move forward with hope and optimism.

Important Information for New Scam Victims

If you are looking for local trauma counselors please visit counseling.AgainstScams.org or join SCARS for our counseling/therapy benefit: membership.AgainstScams.org

If you need to speak with someone now, you can dial 988 or find phone numbers for crisis hotlines all around the world here: www.opencounseling.com/suicide-hotlines

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PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.

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