Self-destructive trend: what it is and in what behaviors it expresses

There are many ways in which people carry out acts that, either short or long term, and directly or indirectly, could potentially be dangerous to our integrity.

The self-destructive tendency refers to a whole series of behaviors that are considered harmful to the person who carries them out. It is often seen in mental disorders, in addition to dysfunctional personality styles.

Let’s take a closer look at the exact definition of this personality construct, in addition to seeing its associated causes and disorders.

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Self-destructive trend, what exactly are we referring to?

In a strict sense, by self-destructive tendency, reference is made to a series of behaviors that can involve physical, emotional or psychological harm to the person who carries them out. The behaviors of people with this type of tendency constitute a continuum, that is, there are more serious and less serious ones, but all of them can carry a risk to the integrity of the individual .

Do not confuse ‘self-destructive tendency’ with ‘self-harm’ as if they were synonymous terms. They are not, but the second could be included within the first. Self-harm, in addition to suicide attempts, are considered behaviors of a person who tends to self-destruction, given how clearly his physical integrity is impaired.

However, within the label of ‘self-destructive tendencies’ we would refer to a whole set of behaviors that can be deliberate, planned, be the product of an impulse or acquired as a habit and performed automatically . That is, there are self-destructive behaviors that can be more subtle than others.

Be that as it may, these types of tendencies, although they can be shown by a person without any serious psychopathology, have been associated with disorders of the schizophrenia type and borderline personality disorder, in addition to having an altered mood, such as in depression, the disorder Bipolar or anxiety disorders .

These types of behaviors tend to increase. Sometimes it might seem that the person controls them, or that it gives them the feeling that by performing them they have greater control of their associated anxiety. Others might think that those who do it only intend to attract attention, however, this may be an indication that they need help and that they are not being given adequate attention and importance.

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Ways in which it manifests

Depending on how directly they are related to the danger of death of the person, there are two types of self-destructive behaviors.

On the one hand we have direct self-destructive behaviors, which would occur when the person who tends to this type of acts is performing actions that can end in tragedy, such as suicide attempts or self-harm .

Instead, we refer to indirect self-destructive behaviors when they contemplate death or the loss of physical or mental integrity as an unwanted effect, even if consciously. Examples of this type of behavior would be smoking or addictions to different substances, which lead the person to a slow death and fall within the parasuicidal behaviors. Indirect self-destructive behavior would also be considered the practice of high-risk sports.

This type of behavior is usually carried out as if it were a mechanism to deal with the adversities of daily life , especially when the individual feels overwhelmed by them.

Self-destructive behaviors can manifest as a mechanism to keep people away. For example, if, as a couple, you are afraid of spoiling the relationship, to avoid being responsible for the end of the couple, the person with this type of tendency can take actions that encourage the other member of the relationship to leave. Thus, instead of facing the fear of the couple breaking up, individuals with self-destructive make it the other who spoils the relationship first.

However, in most cases, these types of behaviors do not occur so far-fetched. In mental disorders such as eating disorders, that is, anorexia, bulimia and food addiction, alcoholism, various addictions and borderline personality disorder, this type of behavior can be observed. Sex addiction is also considered a self-destructive tendency, especially when it involves taking risks such as not taking appropriate prophylaxis for sexually transmitted diseases.

Possible causes behind this behavior

The possible causes behind the self-destructive tendency can be traced, in most cases, to an unhealthy childhood and adolescence. The person who leads to this type of behavior, especially in the most serious cases such as self-harm and substance addiction, has often experienced sexual or physical abuse during childhood, which has crystallized in the form of trauma that It appears in adulthood in the form of dysfunctional behaviors .

This type of tendency can also be associated with personality characteristics, especially in those people who feel very insecure and have little confidence in their strengths, despite having them. These types of people feel insecure with many aspects of their lives, such as in the couple, wondering things like ‘how can someone like me want to?’ Or, while at work or at school, ask yourself, “How am I going to be able to do everything they are asking me to do, if I am worthless?”

The degree of skill or objective success that the person has in different areas of his life does not seem to influence the self-destructive tendency. That is, there are people who are very good at certain aspects, such as sport or study who, believing they do not deserve success or have low self-esteem, self-boycott .

A determining factor in having a personality style with a self-destructive tendency is not receiving adequate care from the closest environment, be it the family or the group of friends. There are people who perform self-destructive acts in an attempt to attract attention and, at the same time, as a symptom of the psychological problem behind this behavior. Tobacco use, especially among teenagers, could be interpreted as seeking help and receiving attention from their parents.

Is it possible to change it?

As we were saying, there are a variety of behaviors that fall within the umbrella of “self-destructive tendency”. Smoking is not the same as picking up a knife and making deep cuts in the arm. However, regardless of the severity of the self-destructive behavior that the patient is carrying out, the best practice in all cases is to go to psychological therapy .

Not all people who perform this type of behavior are aware of their self-destructive tendency, and sometimes even downplay it. Whatever your degree of awareness of the problem, it is recommended that the family environment and close loved ones encourage you to go to a professional, be it a psychologist, psychiatrist or doctor, to deepen the problem and see what the risk is for your life.

Many of these behaviors are due to a psychological problem behind, which causes discomfort and a high degree of dysfunctionality in the person’s life. It is advisable to show the person what is the cause of the situation in which they are, how it is possible to improve and, through perseverance, begin to see the results in the form of improvement.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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