Managing Self-Destructive Behavior

self-destructive behavior

Managing Self-Destructive Behavior

The disease of addiction is self-destructive in nature, but the relationship between self-sabotage and addictive behavior goes deeper than you might think. If you are in recovery, learning to recognize and manage your self-destructive tendencies is pivotal to preventing a relapse and living a healthier life.

What Is Self-Destructive Behavior?

Self-sabotage refers to any activity someone deliberately engages in, despite knowing there will be negative consequences. For example, you may be well aware staying out late at the bar will hurt your performance at the office the next day, but you order another round anyway because the immediate gratification is a higher priority for you.

The tendency to engage in self-destructive activities is a hallmark of substance misuse disorders, as well as co-occurring mental health issues such as depression. For instance, a depressed person might turn to drug use to escape from their constant feelings of sadness and low self-worth, instead of addressing the issue with healthy coping mechanisms like therapy, exercise and journaling.   

Self-sabotage also results from low self-esteem. People who struggle with intrusive negative thoughts like “I’ll never be good enough,” “I don’t deserve to be happy” or “Everyone thinks I’m worthless” may engage in harmful behavior to communicate their pain and misery to the world.

Addiction and Self-Destructive Behavior

Addiction, like other forms of self-sabotage, takes control of the brain’s reward and reinforcement pathways. Even though negative outcomes like hangovers or drug-related arrests are obvious, an addict’s brain still manages to be convinced that drugs and alcohol are not only positive, but essential. How does this happen?

Drugs and alcohol stimulate or mimic neurotransmitters that trigger the release of dopamine, which creates a euphoric high. Since the brain’s motivation system depends on small spikes in dopamine, the artificial flood of dopamine that results from drug and alcohol use is powerful enough to rewire the brain’s reward circuits over time. Addiction and reckless behavior happen because your brain doesn’t care what triggers its reward system.

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging

The good news is that there are many healthy ways to stop engaging in self-destructive behavior. Here are a few useful tips.

  • Identify Your Triggers

Start by identifying people, places or situations that cause addiction cravings. For example, stress and anxiety are two of the biggest triggers for self-destructive behavior. If you drink or use drugs to numb your thoughts and feelings, develop healthy coping strategies so you can manage spikes in stress levels.

  • Keep Track of Your Behavior

Writing down a journal of self-sabotaging thoughts and actions can help you identify where you are vulnerable to going off-track with your goals, as well as uncover patterns of thinking that lead to self-destruction.

  • Practice Mindfulness

Substance abuse often arises from an unwillingness or inability to process thoughts and feelings in a given moment. You can replace unhealthy habits like drug use and drinking with healthy behavior like meditation, which teaches you to connect fully to your inner self. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and most of them take only a few moments out of your day.  

Your New Life Starts Here

Although most people eventually realize their chronic substance abuse is a self-destructive behavior, it’s nearly impossible to break the cycle without addiction treatment. To start a strong foundation on which to build a lifestyle free of self-destructive behavior, contact our Palm Springs addiction rehabilitation facility today.

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