The MHS Journals

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How to Break Cycles of Self-Destructive Behavior

May 1, 2024

How to Break Cycles of Self-Destructive Behavior 

Self-destructive behavior can be an easy pattern to fall into–and it’s equally difficult, in many cases, to break out of those patterns and reestablish healthy habits that can help you achieve your goals. Many forms of self-destructive behavior are well-known, including patterns like drug and alcohol addiction. However, some self-destructive behaviors may be less obvious. By identifying them, you can begin to take steps down the path to an overall healthier outlook. MHS is here to help you understand what self-destructive behavior looks like and how it can affect people around you. It will also let you know there’s help if you need it today.

What is Self-Destructive Behavior?

Self-destructive behavior includes any behavior that is known to cause harm to yourself. Obvious examples include things like binge drinking, substance abuse, self-harm behaviors, and excessive gambling. However, other behaviors can also create dangerous cycles, including:

  • Excessive shopping
  • Consistently cutting yourself down
  • Chronic procrastination
  • Self-pity
  • Ignoring your own needs in favor of focusing on others
  • Making changes to yourself or your personality to please others

Self-destructive behaviors create a continuing pattern of harm that can make it difficult for many people to accomplish their goals or proceed normally with everyday life.

Who is Affected by Self-Destructive Behavior? 

Anyone can be affected by self-destructive behavior. However, people with a significant trauma history or those with anxiety, depression, or PTSD may have a greater risk of developing self-destructive behaviors.

How You Can Break the Cycle

Dealing with a self-destructive behavior cycle can be incredibly frustrating. However, there are several strategies you can use to reduce self-destructive behaviors and improve your mental health.

Address Underlying Mental Health Concerns

Self-destructive behavior often occurs as a result of underlying mental health issues. By addressing those issues and receiving treatment, you can often break the self-destructive cycle.

Identify Triggers

Specific triggers or fears may make it more likely that you will engage in self-destructive behaviors. If you notice that you are more likely to engage in those behaviors after certain things occur, whether it’s a call with a toxic parent or dealing with a specific type of issue at work, you can find ways to reduce those triggers and keep your emotions at an even level.

Permit Yourself to Use Healthy Coping Skills

Using an “I should” attitude can make it difficult to make changes to your routine or reduce self-destructive behaviors. For example, if you’re trying to stop binge eating, saying, “I should eat a salad,” can trap you in a cycle of self-destruction and shame. On the other hand, reframing your options and giving yourself permission to engage in healthier behaviors and coping skills can make it easier to choose those healthy options. Try, “I can eat a meal that is good for my body,” or, “I can choose to call a friend instead of eating a pan of brownies.”

Work with a Therapist

If you’re struggling to change the self-destructive behavior cycle, working with a therapist can make it much easier to accomplish your goals. Both talk therapy and behavioral therapy from MHS in Plymouth, MN, can be highly effective in not only identifying potentially dangerous behaviors but also learning more effective coping mechanisms.

Give Yourself Grace

Keep in mind that changes rarely happen overnight. Breaking out of self-destructive cycles can take time, particularly if they are long-term cycles or you are dealing with substantial trauma. Allow yourself to be a work in progress, and give yourself time to heal as you continue the journey.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

When you’re struggling with mental health concerns, including self-destructive behavior, reach out and ask for help! At MHS, we help teach skills that can allow you to be at peace and find joy and purpose in your life. Our therapists have the tools to help you break the self-destructive behavior cycle. Contact us today to start your journey to healing.

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