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Identifying Self-Destructive Behaviors

a young woman knows she needs to regain control of her self destructive behaviors

Staying up late when you have an early meeting the next morning isn’t the best idea, but it probably won’t ruin your career. Self-destructive behaviors are more serious actions that could harm you physically or mentally. Fortunately, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people change these negative behaviors.

Call Woodland Recovery Center at 662.222.2989 to learn more about how CBT can improve life for people prone to self-destructive behaviors like non-suicidal self-injury or drug or alcohol misuse.

What Are Self-Destructive Behaviors?

Self-destructive behavior is loosely defined as any behavior that can cause self-harm. It may be extremely serious and immediate harm, such as attempting suicide, or more subtle harm, like making derogatory comments about oneself.

You may be at a higher risk for these behaviors if you’ve experienced the following:

  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Problems with low self-esteem
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Social isolation, bullying, exclusion
  • Childhood trauma, such as neglect, abuse, or abandonment

If you have friends or family members who also practice self-destructive behaviors, you may be more prone to them yourself.

Self-Destructive Behaviors and Mental Health

Not only can self-destructive behavior harm your mental health, but in some cases, it stems from a pre-existing mental health condition. The loneliness and isolation many people with mental health disorders experience may lead to self-harming behaviors, or the disorder itself could be at the root of the self-harm.

For example, the rate of self-destructive behavior is especially high among people with post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, self-destructive behavior is considered to be a symptom of PTSD.

Exhibiting these types of behaviors doesn’t automatically mean you have a mental health disorder. Self-destructive behavior could be a coping mechanism that helps you handle stress. However, continuing with maladaptive behavioral patterns can increase your risk of harming your mental health.

Identifying Self-Destructive Behaviors

Many people are unaware of their own self-destructive behaviors. Putting themselves down in front of co-workers or hanging on to unhealthy relationships can become so habitual they don’t even notice they are doing it. Identifying self-destructive behaviors when they’ve become a “normal” way to act can be difficult.

Some harmful habits are more obvious than others. Examples of self-destructive behaviors include:

  • Changing your personality or belief systems to please others
  • Chronic avoidance or procrastination
  • Aggressive behavior toward others
  • Self-injury, such as hair pulling, burning, or cutting
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Binge eating or self-starvation
  • Compulsive activities, such as gaming, shopping, or gambling
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Wallowing in negative or self-pitying thoughts
  • Suicidal ideation

The severity and frequency of self-destructive behaviors vary from person to person and even from episode to episode with the same person.

Can Self-Destructive Behavior Be Diagnosed?

Patterns of self-destructive behavior can be diagnosed by a mental health professional. A professional evaluation is important because it will help to clarify whether the behaviors are part of a mental health disorder or simply a coping mechanism you have developed over time.

The criteria for diagnosis include the following:

  • Distress about your behaviors
  • A preoccupation with self-injury or urges to self-injure
  • Self-destructive behaviors provide a boost of positive feelings or relieve negative feelings
  • At least five incidents of self-harm within the past year

Self-destructive behaviors are sometimes misdiagnosed as borderline personality disorder. It is important to be evaluated by a therapist who has experience treating people with self-destructive tendencies.

Find Help for Self-Destructive Behaviors at Woodland Recovery Center

If you’re still wondering about what destructive behaviors might be or if you recognize yourself or a loved one as having these behaviors, our therapy program can help.

Call Woodland Recovery Center at 662.222.2989 or fill out our online form to learn more about cognitive-behavioral therapy and other mental health support programs that can help you change negative ways of thinking and behaving.