Self-destructive tendency: what it is and in which behaviors it is expressed

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

Self-destructive tendency refers to a variety of behaviors considered harmful for the person who performs them. 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, along with its causes and associated disorders.

    Self-destructive tendency what exactly are we referring to?

    Strictly speaking, the self-destructive tendency refers to a series of behaviors that can cause harm, physical, emotional or psychological, to the person who performs them. The behaviors of people with this type of tendency are a whole continuum, that is to say that there is more serious and there is less serious, but all of which can pose a risk to the integrity of the individual.

    “Self-harming tendency” should not be confused with “self-harm” as if they were synonymous terms. They are not, but the second could be included in the first. Self-harm, in addition to suicide attempts, is considered to be the behavior of a person who tends to self-destruct, given how clearly their physical integrity can be impaired.

    However, under the label of “self-destructive tendencies” we would refer to a whole set of they can be deliberate, planned, be the product of an impulse, or be acquired as a habit and carried out automatically. In other words, there are some self-destructive behaviors that can be more subtle than others.

    In all cases, these types of tendencies, although they can be manifested by a person without severe psychopathology, have been linked to schizophrenia-like disorders and personality disorder. altered mood, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety disorders.

    These types of behaviors tend to increase. Sometimes it may seem like the person is in control, or it makes them feel that by performing them, they have more control over their associated anxiety. Others might think that those who are doing this are just trying to get attention, but this may be a sign that they need help and are not getting the attention and importance they want.

      Forms in which it manifests itself

      Depending on what is directly related to the danger of death of the person, we speak of two types of self-destructive behavior.

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

      In contrast, we refer to indirect self-destructive behaviors when they regard death or loss of physical or mental integrity as an adverse effect, even consciously. Examples of this type of behavior would be smoking or addiction to different substances, which lead to a slow death and are included in parasitic suicidal behavior. Indirect self-harm would also be considered high-risk sports participation.

      This type of behavior is usually performed as if it were a mechanism to face the adversities of everyday life, Especially when the individual feels overwhelmed by them.

      Self-destructive behaviors can manifest as a mechanism to keep people away. For example, if being in a relationship is afraid of ruining the relationship, to avoid being responsible for ending the relationship, the person with this type of tendency may take actions that make the other member of the relationship leave. ‘to abandon. So instead of facing the fear of a relationship breakup, self-destructive individuals get the other to ruin the relationship first.

      However, in most cases, this type of behavior is not that sophisticated. In mental disorders such as eating disorders i.e. anorexia, bulimia and food addiction, alcoholism, various addictions and borderline personality disorder, this type of behavior can to be observed. Sex addiction is also seen as a self-destructive tendency, especially when it involves taking risks. how not to put the appropriate prophylaxis against sexually transmitted diseases.

      Possible causes of this behavior

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

      This type of tendency can also be associated with personality traits, especially in people who feel very insecure and have little confidence in their strengths, all of whom have them. These types of people don’t feel safe with many aspects of their life, like in a relationship, asking things like “how can you love someone like me?” or, being at work or school, wondering “how am I going to do whatever they ask me to do, if I’m not worth anything?”

      The degree of competence or objective success of the person in different areas of his life does not seem to influence the tendency to self-destruct. In other words, there are people who are very good at certain aspects, such as sports or studying who, believing that they do not deserve success or have low self-esteem, they self-boycott.

      A determining factor in having a self-defeating personality style is not receiving the proper care from the immediate environment, whether it is family or a group of friends. There are people who perform acts of self-destruction in order to gain attention and at the same time as a symptom of the psychological problem behind this behavior. Tobacco use, especially among adolescents, could be interpreted as seeking help and attention from their parents.

      Is it possible to change it?

      As we have said, there are a variety of behaviors that fall under the “self-destructive tendency”. Smoking is not the same as grabbing a knife and making deep cuts in the arm. However, regardless of the severity of the patient’s self-injurious behavior, the most advisable in all cases is to follow psychological therapy.

      Not all people who engage in this type of behavior are aware of their tendency to self-harm and sometimes even downplay it. Whatever your level of awareness of the problem, it is recommended that the family environment and relatives encourage you to contact a professional, whether a psychologist, psychiatrist or doctor, to deepen the problem and see what the risk is. in his life. .

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

      Bibliographical references:

      • Beck, Aaron T .; Kovacs, Maria; Weissman, Arlene (1979). “Assessment of Suicidal Intent: The Suicidal Ideation Scale”. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 47 (2): 343-352. doi: 10.1037 / 0022-006X.47.2.343
      • Nyman, AK; Jonsson, H. (1986). “Patterns of Self-Harming Behavior in Schizophrenia.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 73 (3): 252-262. doi: 10.1111 / j.1600-0447.1986.tb02682.x
      • Lovaas, O. Ivar; Freitag, Gilbert; Gold, Vivian J .; Kassorla, Irene C. (1965). “Experimental studies on childhood schizophrenia: a analysis of self-destructive behavior ”. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 2: 67-84. doi: 10.1016 / 0022-0965 (65) 90016-0
      • van der Kolk, Bessel (December 1991). “Childhood Origins of Self-Harming Behavior”. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 12: 1665–1671.

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