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Mental health is a complex element of our lives and needs to be cared for, just like your physical health. Self-destructive behaviour may be a symptom or sign of broader mental health issues and should therefore be handled with care and self-compassion.

In this post, Select Psychology explores what constitutes self-destructive behaviour, its causes, and available treatments. If you are unsure about what you are experiencing, please feel free to contact us for friendly professional advice and help.

What is Self-Destructive Behaviour?

Self-destructive behaviour is any behaviour that you engage in that is harmful or potentially harmful to yourself. It is the sabotage of your own self, including damage to physical, emotional, and material elements of your life. Self-destructive actions may be impulsive and unintentional, deliberate, or developed as a habit. 

If you are reading this post, it is likely that your self-destructive tendencies are unintended and impulsive. Keep in mind that everyone engages in self-destructive behaviour at some point, whether it’s because they think they didn’t actually deserve that job or that partner or because they didn’t actually want it. Behaviour is only classified as self-destructive once it becomes a regular occurrence.

There are subtle forms of self-sabotage, such as belittling yourself or changing yourself to please others. And then there are more extreme forms of self-harm, such as overusing alcohol and drugs or inflicting self-injury. If you ever feel that you are veering toward extreme behaviours, it is important to seek help and support immediately. Unfortunately, the most extreme form of self-destructive behaviour is suicide, so therapy and counselling are important for this behaviour.

What Causes Self-Destructive Behaviour?

There are many causes for self-destructive behaviour, including mental illnesses, stress, and childhood trauma. This behaviour commonly forms as a coping mechanism where healthier ones have not developed. When one is overwhelmed, self-destructive coping mechanisms may be resorted to.

Other causes of self-destructive behaviour include:

  • Achievement and failure fears
  • Lack of support or parental care
  • Medical disorders
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Addictions and compulsions
  • Psychiatric disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia

Is Self-Destructive Behaviour Treatable?

Yes, healthier coping mechanisms can be learnt and self-destructive tendencies can be minimised and even completely mended. Since self-destructive behaviour is a symptom of any one (or more) mental health issues, treatment will be tailored specifically to your individual needs.

For example, if your self-destructive behaviour is a result of disrupted parental care or neglect, you may be encouraged to explore therapy. If you are being self-derogatory and have low self-esteem, you may choose to have therapy focussed on your self-esteem.

Whatever may be the cause of your self-destructive behaviour, therapy is the best way to ensure that you are heard and understood. From there, you and your therapist can unravel the causes and effects of your past and present behaviour. You’ll develop healthy coping mechanisms and gain a greater understanding of your own behaviour and its relation to the self.

If you believe that you may be self-destructive, do not hesitate to get in touch with us or book a free consultation. It is always best to tackle possible problems in their early stages before you harm yourself or your future prospects irrevocably.