Self-destruction: 5 common behaviors we destroy ourselves with — causes and functions

People often talk about actions against other people, forgetting that you can also act against yourself. Such behavior has its own term — self-destruction. What are its causes? How to recognize self-destructive behavior and how to fight it? We present examples and possible solutions.

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What is self-destruction?

Self-destruction has more than one name — for some people it is constant self-punishment, for others it is “getting ahead of themselves”, still others consciously destroy themselves by falling into serious addictions. To understand this term, it is best to explain what exactly self-destruction is in psychology.

From a psychological perspective, self-harm is a conscious act to one’s detriment. It can take the form of actions (e.g., when we intentionally stop eating, knowing that it will lead to an eating disorder) or even thoughts (when we consider only our faults and the dark side of our successes).

What are the causes of self-harm?

The causes of self-harm are most often associated with negative memories. If we were unappreciated by our parents, experienced a tumultuous relationship, or were rejected in social settings, our self-esteem has likely plummeted. However, low self-esteem is not the same as self-destruction — in fact, we only behave in a self-destructive way when we act to our own detriment instead of trying to fight against adversity and negative thoughts.

The self-destructive personality is also often associated with taking solace in moments when we hurt ourselves. Thus, one of the causes is seeking an outlet for negative emotions.

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What are the functions of self-harm?

Even though self-destructive actions are difficult to understand, they have specific functions for the person who uses them in his or her life and serve something specific.

To emphasize one’s personality — this purpose may be particularly important, especially for young people in adolescence. Specific activities are designed to define oneself or manifest membership in a particular group. A sense of acceptance at this age is extremely important, and misunderstanding from adults can only intensify self-destructive actions.

Regulating emotional tension — self-aggression is a way to temporarily unload negative feelings that rise up in us. The strong stimulus that we give ourselves in such a way, is meant to free us from the bad emotions that overwhelm us, and with which we can not cope in any other way. One way might be to inflict physical pain on ourselves to relieve us of mental suffering.

Feeling something — When we feel an inner emptiness, self-destructive behavior is designed to make us feel something else again. This approach can occur with depression, anxiety problems, and narcissistic personality disorder.

Regaining control — When we lose control of our emotions, self-destructive behaviors are designed to restore control. Through them, we are supposed to start being in control of ourselves.

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Self-destructive behaviour

Self-destructive behaviour can be defined as acting against oneself — but how does it manifest itself most often?

Sometimes people with self-destructive personalities deliberately destroy relationships full of happiness. They point out that they are not worthy of sacrifice and love with such vehemence, as if they wanted to bring about the breakdown of the relationship, after which they could put themselves in the position of a rejected and unwanted person. Why is this so? Self-destructive personalities sometimes feel comfortable in their “loser role” — paradoxically, the more drama going on around them, the more fulfillment they feel.

How to fight it?

Try to stop taking all compliments and praise as criticism.
Ask yourself if it’s worth it to cause arguments and if there’s really anything to argue about, or if you’re aiming to cause a stir on purpose.

As long as we use drugs moderately and for pleasure, we are not self-destructive. But if pleasure turns into need, and we don’t find joy in anything else, we damage not only our health, but also — our mind. An addicted person with a self-destructive personality knows very well that he or she is destroying their life — the biggest problem is that they accept this state of affairs.

How to fight it?

The primary step should be to condemn our own behavior. As long as we accept our addiction, don’t expect things to change.
Look for an outlet for your emotions that doesn’t work against your mind or body. Finding a hobby or starting a sport is a good option.

The natural response to success is joy and contentment. People with a tendency to self-destruct feel sadness or embarrassment instead — they look for the smallest flaws and faults in their project or achievement, rather than seeing the very essence of success or social appreciation.

How to fight it?

Look at your accomplishment from the side of a stranger. Would they actually focus on the negative details, or would they see the positives, visible at a glance?
Instead of constantly claiming that your success means nothing and others are achieving much more than you, focus on the here and now. Don’t look at others and don’t compare yourself — it’s you that matters.

Self-harm is mostly associated with self-harming your body. However, not many people are aware that self-destructive behavior also includes pulling out hair, eyebrows or biting nails or cuticles around them.

How to fight it?

Try starting a “new chapter.” If you have an uneven hair length due to pulling or biting your hair, go to your hairdresser for a complete makeover with a haircut. If you bite your nails, get an expensive manicure to end the bad habit.
Find an outlet for your emotions — “express yourself” on a toy “squish” for example.

Self-destruction includes not only direct actions, but also clipping your wings. Some people deliberately stand still and take no action that can improve their situation. They’d rather complain about not achieving celebrity success than take fate into their own hands and do as much as they can to make their lives better.

How to fight it?

Don’t worry about the fact that your goals aren’t on par with your dreams of a perfect life. What matters is the here and now — it’s better to achieve small successes than to do nothing and forever dream.
If you get discouraged doing an activity that doesn’t work for you, take a break for a few minutes and try again.

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