How to Stop Self-Destructive Behavior in a Relationship


Self-destructive behaviors are a human problem, but professionals don’t pay enough attention to it. This is probably due to the fact that most theories interpret self-destructive actions as symptoms of a deeper problem: addiction, depression, or personality disorder. This behavior often draws us into a hole from which we can’t crawl out. There are also stereotypes of self-destructive behavior that we are not aware of, but we repeat mistakes again and again. So, what is it and how to cope with this problem?

self-destructive tendencies

Defining Self-Destructive Behavior

What is self-destructive behavior? What we call self-destruction in everyday life is called self-aggression by psychologists and psychiatrists. It should be noted that this concept is very multivalued. If we talk about a general definition, then self-aggression means that people cause harm to themselves in the physical, psychological or social sphere. This description is suitable for self-mutilation (self-injury, such as shallow cuts on the legs or arms), and socially approved forms of self-aggression, such as workaholism and extreme sports. But one should understand the reason for this behavior and distinguish behavioral and psychological levels. Self-destructive behavior most often is based on feelings such as anger and self-dislike. Thus, self-hatred is a trigger for self-destructive behavior. This can manifest itself in both alcohol abuse, eating disorders and the violent deprivation from sleep. In such moments, a person doesn’t think, “I’m bad and I have to punish myself,” no, it happens at an unconscious level.

Sometimes parents of adolescents contact psychologists because they have problems of self-aggressive actions. For example, teenagers can specifically provoke fights or get involved in extreme forms of sport. In preschool-age children, behavioral symptoms of self-aggression can also be noticed but on a psychological level, they aren't always caused by self-hatred. There are examples when children hit themselves because they know that when they hurt, their mothers feel sorry for them.

There is nothing terrible about dissatisfaction with oneself. On the contrary, it is absolutely natural because if we do something wrong, we can scold ourselves, we can feel guilty. Problems begin at the moment when self-aggression becomes a habitual way of responding to the whole range of frustrating situations, in which a person can’t achieve the desired goal. If this happens, it’s time to sound the alarm.

Signs of Self-Destructive Behavior

When something terrible and soul-destroying happens to us or when we are just in clinical depression, something inside really wants us to cease to exist because then our pain will be reduced. Some decide to commit suicide in this condition. But most people choose the path of slow self-destruction. Here are self-destructive behavior signs you should pay attention to.

  • Alcohol

It seems that your life is a series of parties or, on the contrary, evening hours with good movies and brandy, but you know that you drink not for the sake of ridiculous dizziness, not in anticipation of fun but because you need it. You must drink and that’s it. You know very well that people are dying of alcoholism and adventures when they are very drunk, and this is what you are looking for.

  • Extreme

It is not easy to distinguish an adrenaline addicted person from those who are trying to destroy themselves. The difference will be in the choice of a hobby: a man or woman with a self-destructive personality will choose where death rates are higher. Surprisingly, it is this type of self-destructive behavior that can give a person the strength to live if the hobby is moderately extreme, like a fast ride on a motorcycle or skydiving. Over and over again defying death and winning a fight, discovering the boundaries of one’s body and how strong it is, a person can find the spiritual strength to live. But this, alas, is not necessary.

  • Refusal to eatself-destructive personality

Direct refusal to eat would be kind of suicide. And this is not what such people look for. Rather, it is a question of loss of appetite or, more often, the choice of a strict diet. Tortures that accompany hunger (or banal stomach pain) are a measure of cleansing mental pain. Such self-destructive behavior causes joy. People want to do unpleasant procedures such as enema or induce vomiting.

  • Workaholism

We all know the expression “live at work.” Many are seriously trying to put it into practice so that to suffer from overwork and lack of sleep. To do more work, they complicate each task for themselves, for example, trying to accomplish it perfectly or deliberately come up with the most time-consuming ways to perform it.

  • Self-sacrifice

This is one of the obvious self-destructive behavior signs. Refusing anything that you have, at the first request or even without it, or getting stuck in a relationship where you play the role of the savior of a lost person or patiently carrying the cross of your companion in any situation, you try on the role of a martyr. Your “I” will certainly die. And the craving for special purification accompanies almost all slow suicides. Moreover, the role of the martyrs is socially approved, and not everyone is ready to resist the irritation and contempt of society, no matter how it helps destroy yourself.

How to Help Someone with Self-Destructive Behavior

How to stop self-destructive behavior if someone can’t cope with it without your help?

  • Help them protect themselves from harmful thoughts

Sometimes we have strong erroneous beliefs, which are extremely difficult to overcome. It seems to us that they are part of us, but it is not. By nature, people are flexible and can accept any situation if they form it long enough and persistently. This ability may be useful. Help a person to track the beliefs that prevent him/her from living: low self-esteem, lack of opportunity for change, and so on.

  • Let they make a conscious choice

If a person chooses a business, a friend, a life partner, sport or something else, he or she has to do it consciously, be prepared for anything. For example, if they want to start a business, then they should be prepared not only for the fact that they will have money and independence, but also for risk, the possibility of failure and lack of free time. If they decide to marry, then apart from love and life with a loved one, they can expect a partial loss of freedom, problems, and occasional quarrels. Explain all this to people with self-destructive tendencies.

  • Help them start doing something

In fact, we are postponing what scares us. To defeat fear, let a person starts small. He or she should perform tasks that take no more than five minutes. Thus, he or she can get rid of fear and begin to perform more complex tasks.

  • Destroy their harmful beliefs through action

It's necessary to overcome negative beliefs and habits actions. For example, if a person believes that his or her opinion is not appreciated, help them speak more often at public meetings, suggest new ideas and present their point of view. Gradually, their negative thoughts will change to positive ones.

  • Explain that ideals don’t exist

If they suffer from perfectionism, any failure can knock them out of the rut. The pursuit of an ideal ends with tears and broken hopes. People don’t understand how to stop being self-destructive in such situations. And you can praise them for any achievements and don’t reproach for failures. You should explain to them that defeat, like success, is part of our life.

  • Remind them that life isn’t endless

We forget that life can end at any time, and no one knows what will happen next. If you don’t create something worthwhile right now, when will you do it? And who does prevent you from doing everything you want? Who can forbid you to be happy? You should persuade your partner that he or she can’t waste time.

Self-Destructive Behavior in Relationships

Why do people develop healthy and full-fledged relationships, while others experience constant discontent with each other showing inappropriate behavior?

  • Children’s emotional traumasself-destructive behavior causes

As the saying says, “Look for the roots of all problems in childhood.” Why does a person initially enter into destructive relationships? In most cases, he/she unconsciously tries to repeat the scenario of the relationship between a father and a mother that they saw in childhood. So, it often happens that two people who witnessed domestic violence, constant scandals or alcoholism of parents in childhood find each other and unconsciously begin to repeat the actions of parents. Despite the destructiveness and painfulness of such a relationship, lovers are in no hurry to break up since they don’t know how normal relationships between spouses can develop.

How to stop self-destructive behavior in relationships? Psychologists often advise young lovers not to rush to start a joint life immediately after moving from parents or even on the same territory with parents. To abstract from such a bad model of the relationship between a man and a woman, you need to create your own idea of normal family relationships.

  • Need to be needed

Initially, everyone wants to be loved and needed by someone. But some women and men (especially if they received little parental love in childhood) have a particularly acute need to be needed. In the worst case, self-destructive people begin to build relationships with domestic tyrants, requiring the partner to abandon friends, hobbies, beliefs and live in constant attempts to please him or her in everything.

Dissolving in a loved one completely, you can never build a constructive relationship. Each of the participants in the relationship must have their own hobbies, thoughts, and activities. To be needed doesn’t mean to dwell on a particular person.

  • Need for control

Self-destructive behavior in relationships manifests itself in overcontrol. A person who feels the constant need to control all the actions and thoughts of a partner can also create only destructive relationships in the family. Continuously controlling the actions of the partner, in any case, the person remains dissatisfied with the relationship.

It should be understood that any constructive relationship is built primarily on love, trust, and respect. So, respect the interests and needs of your partner.

Perhaps the creation of strong relationships with loved ones can be the best prevention of self-destructive behavior. When we can share our experiences with soulmates, despair recedes, and we are able to see new horizons. Maybe you still don’t know about it, but science has proven that relationships turned out to be the only and most important source of satisfaction for life.

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