5 Signs of Self-destructive Behavior
You deserve to treat yourself with compassion, but being kind to yourself is sometimes easier said than done. If you struggle with self-destructive behaviors, your own actions may be the reason that you’re suffering. People act in self-destructive ways for a number of reasons, but the behavior always has health consequences. Recognizing and breaking free from your self-destructive tendencies is essential for your physical and emotional health.
What Is Self-destructive Behavior?
Self-destructive behaviors are any behaviors that cause you emotional or physical harm. Sometimes, self-destructive behaviors are highly noticeable to yourself and those around you. In other cases, self-destructive behavior can be more subtle. You might not even realize that you’re displaying self-destructive behavior or that your health is suffering as a result of those actions.
Self-destructive behavior is a common symptom of broader mental health issues. You might engage in self-destructive behavior because you feel like you don’t deserve anything better, or you may develop risky and harmful habits as a way of coping with stress. Past traumas and social isolation are both common risk factors for self-destructive behavior, too.
Examples of Self-destructive Behavior
Self-destructive behavior looks different in everyone. Some self-destructive behaviors result in physical harm, and others cause more subtle psychological damage. Here are some examples of self-destructive behavior:
- Excessive or dangerous use of alcohol and drugs
- Binge eating or intentionally undereating
- Pathological gambling
- Reckless driving
- Risky sexual behavior
- Self-injury, such as cutting or burning yourself
- Being confrontational with others
- Neglecting medical care when sick or hurt
- Self-sabotaging when you get close to your goals
- Consistent negative self-talk
- Chronic procrastination
5 Signs of Self-destructive Behavior
Self-destructive behavior can become so ingrained in your life that you may not even recognize you’re doing it. The first step toward breaking the habit is recognizing that there’s a problem. Here are the key signs that you struggle with self-destructive behavior:
1. You find it hard to control your impulses.
If you’re prone to self-destructive behavior, you may have an extremely difficult time denying your impulses. Self-destructive behaviors aren’t always impulsive, but they often occur as an abrupt reaction to a trigger. Your first impulse after a stressful day at work may be to drink to excess, or you might pick a fight with someone as an immediate response to a painful emotion. You may recognize that what you want to do is harmful, but you just can’t resist the urge.
2. You feel badly about yourself, your life, or the world.
Self-destructive behavior is very common in people with depression, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues. When you don’t feel worthy of health or happiness, you may make choices that cause yourself harm. Speaking or thinking negatively about yourself is its own form of self-destruction, too, because it can lead to serious psychological damage.
3. You neglect your responsibilities.
Neglecting work responsibilities, skipping school, and failing to take care of chores or personal hygiene are all common signs of self-destructive behavior. You might not trust your ability to manage your responsibilities, or you might neglect your obligations on purpose as a form of self-sabotage. This is also one of the most noticeable symptoms of self-destructive behavior in others. If your friend or family member starts avoiding their responsibilities, it could be a sign that their mental health is suffering.
4. You feel a sense of relief when engaging in an unhealthy habit.
People typically engage in self-destructive behavior because it makes them feel better in some way. After feeling tense, anxious, or hopeless, you may feel an overwhelming sense of relief when you partake in your self-destructive habit. This can be very appealing, especially if you’re dealing with mental health troubles. You might continually seek out this relief until the behavior causes serious harm. In many ways, self-destructive behaviors can become psychologically addictive.
5. Your health is suffering.
A decline in your physical or mental health as a result of your behavior is a major sign that you’re struggling with self-destructive tendencies. Physical health problems may be easier to notice than mental health issues, but both can wreak havoc on your life. Weight loss or gain, excessive sleeping, racing heart rate, and aches and pains are all physical signs that your habits are taking a toll on your well-being. Mentally, you may feel anxious, irritable, hopeless, or numb.
How to Stop Self-destructive Behavior
Stopping your self-destructive behaviors may not be easy, but it’s absolutely essential for you to live a happy and healthy life. The first step toward healing is understanding why you engage in these behaviors. Self-destructive behavior always happens for a reason. You might find a sense of relief or escape from the habits, or you may be repeating behaviors that you learned as a child. There are endless possible causes of self-destructive behavior, but figuring out why you do it will help you fix the root of the problem.
Self-destructive behavior usually has a trigger. To gain control over your self-destructive tendencies, look for patterns in your behavior. Specific situations, people, or memories might cause a self-destructive impulse. If you know when you’re most likely to engage in self-destructive behavior, you’ll know to be especially careful and mindful in those circumstances.
To stop your self-destructive behaviors, try replacing the harmful habit with a healthy one. For example, instead of turning to drugs or alcohol when you’re stressed, you could exercise. Instead of picking a fight in response to a triggering situation, you could talk to a friend.
Overcoming self-destructive behavior is difficult, but you don’t have to do it alone. Therapy can help you understand why you engage in self-destructive behavior and identify positive alternatives to the destructive habits. Menachem Psychotherapy Group offers counseling for individuals struggling with self-destructive behavior and other mental health concerns. Contact us today to connect with a therapist in Los Angeles.