Skip to content

Conflict and Mental Health

conflict and mental health

This article has been provided by our conflict coaching and mental health expert, Marie Coombes.


Conflict is inevitable. It’s unavoidable. No matter what you do, you will often find yourself in conflict in life.

That’s because we all view the world through a particular lens, and every person’s offers a different viewpoint. We experience the world as individuals, not as a collective. This is how conflicts manifest.

The different types of conflict

Conflict often becomes problematic because of how we approach it. People often see conflict as something that they need to avoid, but that’s not always possible or indeed the best course of action.

Let’s look at two different types of conflict. Destructive conflict and constructive conflict.

Destructive conflict

Destructive conflict can deeply affect our day-to-day lives.

It can damage relationships or stop positive relationships from developing. It can harm how we see ourselves and others around us.

Being amidst a destructive conflict can profoundly affect our mental health. Unfortunately it’s a cause-and-effect relationship.

At ADR we see this unfold all the time. We hear things like:

“It’s making me feel angry all the time.”

“I take it home with me and it affects my relationship with my partner.”

“It keeps me awake at night.”

These come from people without a diagnosed mental illness. For those diagnosed, destructive conflicts can make existing symptoms worse and help cultivate new ones.

Our fight or flight mode can take over, which isn’t helpful when dealing with the majority of conflict situations.

Take this example. You are walking down the street and see someone you know. You wave but they don’t respond. Do you:

A) Carry on with your day assuming they didn’t see you

B) Spend time wondering what you have done to upset them

C) Get angry and promise yourself you will ignore them next time

If you answered B or C, this interaction would likely play on your mind in the minutes, hours and even days after the event.

Several recent studies have shown that even such minor frustrations can have a short-term negative affect on our mental wellbeing.

Creating constructive conflict

Now consider the conflicts in your life.

The neighbour who plays their music too loud late at night.

The colleague who never says “good morning” to you.

That person who pushed in front of you during this morning’s commute.

As I’ve mentioned, conflict is natural and unavoidable, so we need to reshape how we handle certain situations mentally.

As a mental health awareness trainer, I often talk about a concept known as the ‘stress container.’

This is a metaphorical bucket that we carry around all day. It’s water level reflects how much stress we have in our lives. The gap between the water line and the top of the bucket signifies your capacity to take on more stress.

These destructive conflicts are stressors that add water. Suppose we continue to ponder over these moments in life, the water level will only increase. As every stressor adds to the water level, the pressure on you increases until you can’t take anymore and you either explode in anger or find yourself upset. This can then compound and leave you unwell – mentally and physically.

How do we turn destructive conflict into constructive conflict?

Firstly, just by appreciating the differences in viewpoint that we all hold. This will help you change your attitude towards conflict situations and help you see that it’s just human nature.

Creating constructive conflict isn’t about agreeing with someone else. It’s about understanding and accepting that they just see the situation differently to you.

This can give you a natural empathy for the other person’s situation and perspectives, which reduces the emotion and allows for constructive conversations.

Can we help you?

If you are struggling or would just like to feel better equipped when dealing with such situations, help is on hand via a conflict coach or mediator.

We have a series of new training courses that we will be providing over the coming weeks and months, including:

  • Mental Health Awareness for Managers
  • Opening the Door to Dialogue
  • Conflict Coaching

Plus others that we will be announcing soon.

We can provide you with the skills that you need to effectively handle all the different situations that you encounter in your role. We can deliver training to teams or on a one-to-one basis, depending on your preference.

If you would like us to keep you up to date and send you all the necessary information when each course becomes available, please register your interest by emailing

If you need more immediate assistance, please call the team on 01772 954602 or have a look at our Conflict Coaching service.

Training course testimonials

Here is some of the great feedback we have received from previous training course participants.

“A great session and delivered well by the trainer, who obviously has great experience and knowledge of mental health.”


“Brilliant!! I left the session with more confidence in myself as a mediator than when I started it.”


“The examples and personal narratives gave the session a relevance and practical benefit that will translate into real mediation sessions easily. It wasn’t just a list of mental health conditions, it enabled me (us) to explore what those conditions ask of us as mediators.”

Thank you for reading, I hope you took a lot of value from this.

Marie Coombes (CMGR FCMI, MBA)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *