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Addiction and Self-Destructive Behavior

Self-Destructive Behavior: Why?

It is difficult to fathom why some people engage in self-destructive behavior. Some habitually cut themselves, engage in promiscuous behaviors, or eat too much or too little.[1] However, these behaviors are often seen within the psychiatric community as a way to psychologically escape a situation, cope with it, survive it, or restore emotional equilibrium.1

Although these behaviors are often seen as not being rational, with negative consequences and triggers that don’t seem to be enough to provoke it, there is some logic behind it.1 These behaviors are being used to solve a problem—often on an unconscious level.1 It’s a learned response.1

The Logic Behind Self-Destructive Behavior

Self-Destructive BehaviorIt is quite common for addicts of all kinds to engage in therapy that involves identifying the problem that causes the risky behavior.1 Unraveling the layers and getting to the core of their pain helps them to solve the problem and no longer engage in such self-destructive behavior.1 Instead, they learn to cope with their issues in healthy ways.1 To unlearn these self-destructive behaviors, it is necessary to be aware of one’s emotions and learn to regulate the emotional responses.1 Therapy helps to desensitize the person to the triggering situation, allowing for the healing of the emotional pain.1

Coping skills are often learned in childhood as a way to gain acceptance and approval from parents or caregivers.1 Self-destructive behaviors stem from not achieving that acceptance or approval.1 It is not uncommon for addiction-prone people to have been victimized in some way as a child, resulting in feelings of being an outcast or not wanted.1 As they grow older, they find ways to get into trouble and be punished, as a way to fulfill the negative expectations they have come to know.1 Self-destructive behavior, to them, will help fulfill that need.1

Sometimes, self-destructive behavior is a reenactment of childhood trauma, with the person playing out the familiar scenario as either the perpetrator or victim.1 This reenactment is a defense mechanism to normalize and suppress the original pain associated with the event.1 For example, a child who is physically abused will often abuse others to feel better about themselves and suppress the trauma of the abuse.

Self-Destructive Behavior and Regulating Emotions

Self-destructive behavior is a learned way of regulating emotions.1 People who do not have the ability to modulate their emotions may feel unable to cope with feelings without finding relief in substance abuse or other addictive behavior.1 Self-destructive behavior, such as cutting and over-exercising, increases the flow of endorphins in the brain, relieving the feelings of distress.1

Overall, self-destructive behaviors, although seemingly irrational, have some logic behind them. Learning to cope in a healthy way is key to the downfall of the destructiveness.



[1] Hatch, L. (2013, October 7). Self-Destructive Behavior in Addiction Prone People. Psych Central. Retrieved October 7, 2013, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/10/self-destructive-behavior-in-addiction-prone-people/

One Comment

  • Rene

    October 16, 2013, 7:50 pm

    Thanks for finally writing about > Addiction and Self-Destructive Behavior – Wellington Retreat < Loved it!

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