Why do People Self Destruct?

self destructionIt can be very painful to watch someone you care about self destruct. It can also make you feel very desperate and powerless to stop the harmful behavior. Witnessing someone you love self destruct will always leave you with more questions than answers as their behavior seems like pure senselessness to you. However, you are not alone, and neither is the self destructive person. Self destruction is a common expression of a person’s mental health problems that outwardly take the shape of deliberately ruining one’s own life. Though it is entirely needless, the self destructive person is acting out in response to very real stimuli that their mental health problems thrust upon them.

If their mental health problems are accurately diagnosed, a self destructive person’s negative tendencies can be managed. This requires the person to want to manage their self destructive tendencies as many people do not grasp how badly they need to manage them. Common mental health diagnosis’ that can spawn self destructive behaviors are depression and bipolar disorder. Mood altering disorders of any kind can initiate self destructive behaviors, but particularly ones that involve depressive effects on moods. These mental problems promote despair within the individual as well as the tendency to want to throw in the towel and give up before even trying. This sense of despair and self deprecation is what leads to self destructive behaviors.

Sometimes mental health problems go undiagnosed, either because the person and their loved ones have learned how to function with them or because they simply did not know to seek a diagnosis. Self destructive behaviors will ensue just as persistently in people with undiagnosed mental disorders as those who are diagnosed, sometimes even more so. Without a diagnosis, self destructive behavior may become a way of life for the individual, putting them at greater risk of suffering the consequences of self destructive behavior. If someone in your life is showing signs of self destructive behavior in the form of substance abuse, harming themselves or simply giving up on life, their well being may depend on your encouragement to seek help. Do not stay silent. Intervene if you must.

What is Self Destructive Behavior?

self destructive behaviorSelf-destructive behavior can be very pervasive in some people and very damaging to their well-being. Self destruction is not a condition, but an effect of a wide range of conditions. Many people who are unaware of or who are not caring for a mental illness will show signs of self-destructive behavior. A person who is self-destructing is essentially being defeated by a mental problem that is overwhelming them, even if they are not consciously aware if it. A self-destructive person will lose respect from people who originally were very impressed with them and will gain a reputation for being a “quitter” among their peers.

Signs of self destruction may include overt suicidal behavior such as deliberate overdosing, or self mutilation tactics like cutting. Or, the destruction patterns may not be as overt. They may be more subtle and ongoing, such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, food binging or smoking. They may not even be related to a substance. They could be tied up in personal behaviors and decision making, such as talking one’s self out of accepting a respectful job, inhibiting one’s self from following through on a career path or vocation, or ending a promising relationship. People act out with these behaviors because they believe, even if subconsciously, that they are destined for failure, misery or other negative outcomes. Their self-destructive behavior is reoccurring and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Self-destructive tendencies usually are a result of a mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder. Those who are diagnosed, receive the care they need and follow through with their own self care can overcome their self-destructive tendencies. Those who remain undiagnosed or do not stay on top of their self care will likely continue to demonstrate self-destructive tendencies. If you care about someone who is clearly shooting themselves in the foot with their self destructive behavior, the best thing you can do for them is encourage them to seek help, and refuse to participate in or aid their behavior. They are likely to need considerable psychological evaluation and help in order to bring their harmful behavior to an end.