Talking about self-destructive behaviors and tendencies can be unsettling because they are considered taboo. However, most people have engaged in self-destructive behavior at some point and will do so again in the future. For most of us, self-destructive behaviors are unintentional or, if they are intentional (think of planning to get drunk to deal with a bad day), occur randomly and do not become habits. Self-destructive behaviors are those that cause physical or emotional harm.
Harmony Hills is a residential mental health treatment center providing comprehensive treatment for mental health disorders and dual diagnoses. Our highly-trained and experienced treatment team members are skilled at helping clients identify and overcome self-destructive behaviors and tendencies through evidence-based mental health therapies. Call 855.494.0357 to learn more about the impacts of self-destructive behaviors and how we can help.
Why Do People Engage in Self-Destructive Behavior?
Most people with self-destructive tendencies can recognize the harm they are causing but cannot break the cycle. Others are oblivious. Watching someone you love to engage in self-destructive behaviors is frustrating, confusing, and painful. There are several theories about why people engage in self-destructive behavior.
You might be more prone to self-destructive tendencies if you:
- Experienced childhood trauma
- Experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect
- Have low self-esteem
- Have a substance use or alcohol use disorder
- Have friends who self-harm
- Are isolated
- Have poor coping skills
- Have difficulty regulating emotions
The cycle of self-destructive behavior typically begins in adolescence. Engaging in one self-destructive behavior puts you at risk for others. For example, using drugs and alcohol reduces your inhibitions, causing you to engage in risk-taking behaviors that can induce self-harm.
Signs of Self-Destructive Behaviors
Self-destructive behaviors can cause physical or emotional harm or both. Some self-destructive behaviors are more evident than others, such as:
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
- Self-harm, including cutting, burning, headbanging, or punching
- Impulsive or risky sexual encounters
- Compulsive activities like gambling or shopping
- Binge eating or starving yourself
- Attempting suicide
There are also more subtle self-destructive tendencies that are harder for others to detect and that you may not be consciously aware of. These can include:
- Changing your personality or beliefs to please others
- Feeling extreme self-pity
- Degrading yourself for not being attractive, intelligent, or successful enough
- Staying in an abusive relationship
- Alienating or pushing others away
- Chronic procrastination, avoidance, or passive-aggressiveness
For many, the urge to engage in self-destructive behaviors is too strong to control, even when they want to stop. It is common for those with self-destructive tendencies to make sweeping proclamations like “this is the last time” or “never again.” While they genuinely believe these statements, they quickly find themselves back at it, leading to immense guilt and shame, which fuels self-destructive behaviors, creating a vicious cycle.
How Can I Stop Self-Destructive Tendencies?
Learning to replace maladaptive behaviors with healthier ones is challenging and takes time, but it is possible. Treatment, which typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy, is guided by your unique circumstances and needs and the severity of your self-destructive tendencies.
The first step toward recovery is acknowledging the problem and seeking professional help. At Harmony Hills, clients learn new coping skills they can practice in a safe and supportive environment. Residential mental health treatment allows you to focus on yourself entirely without the distractions and triggers that can perpetuate self-destructive tendencies and behaviors. Some of the coping skills you will learn and practice include:
- Self-reflective journaling
- Meditation and mindfulness practices
- Identifying triggers
- Breathing exercises
- Reframing negative thoughts and beliefs
- Focusing on self-care
You cannot change self-destructive behaviors overnight; it is essential to accept that you may slip up from time to time by falling back into old habits. Learning from your mistakes will enable you to forgive yourself and move on.
Contact Harmony Hills to Get the Support Necessary
If you or someone you love is caught in a cycle of self-destructive behaviors, help is available at Harmony Hills. With a proper diagnosis, we can guide you in uncovering the roots of your self-destructive tendencies and learn healthy coping skills to break the cycle for good. Contact our team at 855.494.0357 to learn more.