At one point in your life, odds are you’ve done something self-destructive. It’s fairly common. While most of the time is not intentional, it can quickly become a habit and lead to significant issues like addiction.
Self-destructive behavior is not to be confused with having an addictive personality.
These are behaviors that harm you physically or mentally. While there’s no research pointing to why we engage in these behaviors, earlier life experiences, depression, and anxiety could all cause it.
Table of Contents
What Exactly Is Self-Destructive Behavior?
In essence, self-destructive behaviors happen when you do something sure to cause harm, whether it’s emotional or physical. The most apparent self-destructive behaviors include:
- Attempting suicide
- Binge eating or binge drinking
- Compulsive activities, like gambling, gaming, or shopping
- Impulsive and risky behavior
- Abusing alcohol and drugs
- Engaging in self-injury
However, there are some more subtle forms of self-destructive behavior that we all engage in. These often happen unconsciously. The most common include:
- Being self-derogatory
- People pleasing
- Clinging to someone who isn’t interested in you
- Engaging in aggressive behavior to push people away from you
- maladaptive behaviors like procrastination, passive-aggressiveness, and avoidance
For some people, the frequency and severity of these behaviors and thoughts are mild. For others, it can be more frequent and intense to the point that it becomes dangerous to their health and life.
Some people might be prone to have self-destructive behaviors, particularly if they’ve experienced:
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Childhood trauma
- Emotional or physical abuse
- Low self-esteem
- Social isolation
Having any of these self-destructive behaviors, you’re also more likely to develop another one.
While there’s not much evidence about these behavioral patterns, some research shows that self-destructive behavior is expected in people with and without a mental health condition.
The truth is, it can happen to anyone, at any age, of any walk of life. Although, estimates believe teens and young adults are more likely to engage in physical self-injury.
The most common mental health conditions that are linked to self-destructive behavior are:
- Anxiety disorder
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
The Self-Destructive Behavior Quiz
Most people develop self-destructive behavior as a coping mechanism without realizing it. Constantly putting yourself down at work or in your life is an early sign. Before learning it, you have developed patterns of self-destructive behavior that are constantly hurting yourself both physically and emotionally.
A mental health professional can help you diagnose self-destructive behavior. The criteria for a diagnosis of non-suicidal self-injury include:
- Harming your body on at least five days within the past year
- Doing self-injury to promote positive feelings and relieve negative thoughts
- Preoccupation with self-injury or frequent urges to do it
- Feeling significant distress about it
- These behaviors are not linked to another condition
Self-destructive behavior doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Treatment is tailored to your specific needs, the frequency and severity of your symptoms, and whether or not you’re struggling with an underlying condition.
- Psychotherapy: talk therapy can help you understand the origin of this unhealthy behavior and learn new coping strategies that can help you process whatever is triggering these outbursts.
- Behavioral therapy: a form of psychotherapy that can help you recognize triggers and situations that cause self-destructive behavior responses. You’ll work with a therapist to find ways to respond to these triggers in a more controlled manner.
Depending on any underlying conditions you’re struggling with, treatment may also include:
- Addiction counseling
- Anger management
- Stress management
In cases where there’s an underlying mental health condition like PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders, your therapist may suggest including a medication-assisted treatment to your plan to treat these conditions with medications.
A Word From Us
The outlook for self-destructive behavior can be promising if you seek help. Therapy and medication can be highly effective at treating a variety of mental health disorders. But, you need to take the first step in reaching out for help.
If you think you’re engaging in self-destructive behavior, you probably are.
Talk to a mental health professional today. Therapy can help you work through the causes and effects of this behavior. In the long-term, you’ll find new coping skills and learn new healthier behaviors to respond to stressful situations. You can feel good, live a happier, and have a less self-destructive life.
If you or someone you love is experiencing self-destructive behavior, think about the possible triggers. Consider speaking with an addiction counselor today. Call 866-308-2090 today and speak with one of our caring therapists to learn more about our treatment options and how we can help you leave your self-destructive behaviors in the past.