Google says: “Self destructive behaviors are any behaviors that negatively impact our mind or body by the life choices we make. Most people are unaware of their self destructive habits. Usually there is some problem with handling or expressing feelings. Self harm/mutilation is a pattern of intentional self injury not death.”
For people who are fortunate enough to not have any mental health issues, self destructive behaviors might seem like an odd concept. Why would anyone intentionally ruin what they have. When you think of self destructive behaviors you might think about self harm, or substance abuse. Would you think of impulsiveness? Sexual promiscuity? Laziness?
Ever since I remember first showing symptoms of anxiety and depression, I’ve been prone to self destructive behaviors. They’ve ranged from the typical self harm, drinking more than I should, to the maybe not so typical : laziness, sleeping all day, not using my full potential, taking the “easy way out”. In high school, I was promiscuous, which was just the type of self destructive behavior my brain craved. No I didn’t enjoy it, yes it came with a lot of regretful mornings and days I couldn’t bare going to school because of the ridicule. I hated it, and it made me feel awful about myself. At the time, I didn’t recognize this as a self destructive behavior. I thought I was the “fun” girl. It wasn’t until later in life that I could see the behavior for what it really was.
Later in life, the self destructive behaviors changed to sleeping all day, only to feel awful and useless when I woke up. Or intentially cancelling plans that I knew would help my mental well being. Or being so impulsive, when I KNEW I should be thinking about my decisions more, and knowing the consequenses would be bad, but doing it anyway.
It’s hard to explain why someone would engage in these behaviors, when it’s so obvious that they can ruin everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Part of me still doesn’t know why I do what I do sometimes, but from what I feel it’s kind of like this:
When part or most of your life is filled with mental illness, trauma, mental or emotional abuse, etc, your inner monologue begins to change. The voice that tells you, “you can do it!” changes to “You might as well give up, you aren’t worthy of happiness”. It begins to put you down, and make you believe that failure, and disapointment is what you deserve. It makes you feel like if you don’t ruin what is going well, something else will, and it’s easier to cope with something you’ve ruined yourself.
It’s a cycle that’s extremely hard to break. Ultimately, your entire way of thinking needs to change. These thoughts come when you feel low. When you feel insecure and undeserving of love, or happiness, or sobriety. It’s hard to flip a switch in your brain and tell that inner voice that , no, you do deserve all of these things. This won’t change overnight, and I am definitely not a pro. But with a lot of perserverence, you can start to drop those behaviors that have been holding you back so much.
One of the easiest things you can do when those feelings of self destructive behaviors start to show, is combat it with doing something that makes you happy. I can’t put enough emphasis on how unhappy these thoughts can make you feel. You begin to dwell on them and they become almost an obsession. So, do something you enjoy. If your brain is telling you you don’t deserve love and you should just end this relationship that makes you happy, go for a walk. If you’ve been sober for a week and having thoughts of “you’ll never be able to do this you might as well give in”, paint a picture or listen to your favourite song.
what I’m trying to say is change the atmosphere. Change what is happening outside of yourself, and inside it will change to, or at least start to.
one thing that is not always so easy to do, is argue with yourself. Debate with yourself. If your brain is telling you you’ll always be fat, so you might as well cheat on your diet; tell yourself you can be whatever you want to be, you are able and worthy of self improvement.
I won’t lie, this is hard sometimes. You’re literally telling yourself that what you’re thinking is wrong. It takes work, but it’s effective.
Don’t associate with people who want to bring you down. There are people that feel better when other people feel worse. It’s not just bullies. It can be family members or friends who have been there forever. They are battling their own issues, but if you are trying to better yourself, you need to surround yourself with people that make you happy.
Take care of yourself. You can’t always stop the behaviors. You can’t be happy all the time. You can’t completely take these urges to destruct away. But with consistently working on yourself, be it doing something you love, eating a healthy meal, surrounding yourself with people who only bring you joy, it can get easier to tell those thoughts to fuck off.