What are Self-destructive Behaviors?

A woman experiencing self-destructive behaviors

Self-destructive behaviors and addiction have a common link.  

Chances are that most people have, at one point, done something marginally self-destructive out of anger, fear, hopelessness or other emotions. Although these actions can cause people to knowingly harm themselves, some find it cathartic.  

While this may be a common human psychological reaction, some people tend to gravitate towards self-destruction more than others. The cause is most often rooted far deeper than a personality trait.  

What is the Definition of Self-Destructive Behaviors 

Self-destructive behavior is any behavior that is harmful or potentially harmful toward the person who engages in the behavior. 

Much like the myth of an “addictive personality,” the propensity for some individuals to exhibit self-destructive behaviors isn’t random. It usually stems from certain emotional, social and environmental triggers that tie back to trauma. Many times, these self-destructive actions develop into a habit. 

With these internal and external forces at play, many find themselves misusing substances to cope with their unresolved issues. This poor coping mechanism can potentially lead down a dangerous road of addiction. 

Examples of Self-Destructive Behaviors

  • People-pleasing and putting personal needs behind everyone else’s 
  • Negative self-image and self-loathing
  • Withdrawal from social circles and hobbies 
  • Frequent lying and denial to self and others 
  • Feeling overcome with shame over past experiences  
  • Finding comfort in self-pity and victimization 
  • Unrealistically high expectations of self and others 
  • Engaging in dangerous behaviors for attention 
  • Combativeness with loved ones 
  • Reoccurring suicidal thoughts 
  • Overindulging or deprivation of bodily needs like sleeping and eating 
  • Habitual substance misuse 

Those who struggle with addiction regularly exhibit one or more of these forms of self-destruction. It’s important to identify these behaviors as part of something bigger. Also, it’s vital to acknowledge the risk of addiction in individuals who show symptoms. 

Co-occurring Disorders  

It’s not uncommon for people who engage in self-destructive behaviors to suffer from untreated mental illness and substance use disorder. Addiction is associated with anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorder, personality disorder and PTSD. All of these conditions can cause someone to harm themselves while also seeking solace in misusing substances.  

The criteria for diagnosing non-suicidal self-injury may include: 

  • Self-harming behavior for at least five days out of the year 
  • Seeking positive feelings and relief from self-injury activities   
  • Feelings of distress when attempts to self-injure fail 
  • Self-harm behaviors not associated with any other mental illness 

Psychiatry is an advanced science, but considerable overlap exists between various disorders and behaviors that may fit into specific categories. This makes self-awareness and observation essential to correctly diagnosing addiction connected to a mental illness that drives self-destructive tendencies. 

What is HALT? 

HALT is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. It’s a tool used to remind someone who is feeling intense emotions to check on their basic needs. It’s also an effective system to use for relapse prevention.  

Before engaging in self-destructive behavior it’s vital to HALT! Stop what you’re doing before you react and think through HALT

Make sure you’re not hungry. When was the last time you had a nutritious meal? Drug or alcohol cravings may be stemming from a drop in blood sugar. It’s easy to relieve this discomfort with a simple snack. Adjusting to a healthy eating routine can be a challenge for some in recovery. Previously, their mealtimes were sporadic and rarely nutritious. With some basic planning, hunger disappears, and so do bad decisions.   

Are you feeling angry? Feeling stressed? What’s the biggest source of your dismay? It may be time to set up an appointment with your substance use counselor and talk it out. Although mending relationships can be difficult in recovery, it is worth the effort. Don’t be afraid to confide in group counseling if you need a sounding board for your concerns. It’s not unusual to go through cycles of anger in recovery; what’s important is how you react to it.   

Are you feeling isolated? When was the last time you did something fun with friends or family? Recovery can sometimes be alienating as hiding from a world full of triggers can feel like the easiest solution. Withdrawing socially is detrimental to progress and can directly lead to self-destructive behaviors due to shame and guilt.  

When was the last time you had a full night’s rest? Some people may experience insomnia when first entering into a recovery program, whether due to side effects from the treatment medication or anxiety. Your provider can prescribe a gentle sleep aid or recommend one that’s over-the-counter. Everything feels better when you’re well-rested. Proper sleep hygiene is a must.  

Seeking Treatment  

Self-destructive behavior and substance misuse often go hand-in-hand, making seeking help feel impossible. Many people exhibiting these behaviors often don’t want to stop because their goal is to continue a cycle of self-abuse. These feelings of unworthiness and self-hatred need to heal in order to assist them in believing they are worthy of recovery. 

It’s difficult to understand what drives self-destructive behaviors in some individuals. Those who bear witness to their loved ones suffering should not feel hopeless. Thankfully, these behaviors can be rehabilitated, along with co-occurring disorders such as addiction.  

Although it may be challenging to reach a person who is suffering and convince them to get help, it’s possible. Many modern treatment programs are discreet, non-judgmental, and convenient. There are entire teams of mental health professionals who work with physicians to ensure the patient receives care for their physical and emotional needs.  

Medication-assisted Treatment at Middlesex Recovery 

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs at Middlesex Recovery offer professional medical care by specialized providers who understand that addiction is a chronic disease. Middlesex Recovery uses a whole-patient approach, offering dynamic programs that address a patient’s every need.  

Patients are treated with respect and dignity as they work with staff. Substance use counselors are available to help manage their symptoms and work towards long-lasting recovery. To learn more about the treatment programs available at Middlesex Recovery, message or call a nearby location today.