I found this article very interesting:
Self Destructive Behaviors
Michaele P. Dunlap, Psy.D, Clinical
If someone told you that
she had been strung out on cocaine six days last week, or that she has been binge eating
and vomiting three times a day, you’d know she was caught in self destructive behavior.
Could you recognize your own self destructive behavior as easily?
As women we are self destructive when we eat poorly trying to keep our bodies too thin;
when we overeat to obesity; when we gain weight and diet in endless cycles of self
deception and self blame about our eating and our weight.
We are self destructive when we try to “drink like a man.” We are at risk
when we drink more than an ounce or two of alcohol on any regular basis, because our
bodies are much more reactive to the toxicity of alcohol than men’s. Excessive use of
alcohol costs any drinker both tissue damage and emotional pain. For women the physical
and emotional costs of alcohol mis-use are higher; the threshold of mis-use is lower.
We are self destructive when we use drugs in an attempt to control our emotions. There
is no mind-altering drug which does not have some harmful physical effect.
Eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse are easily recognizable self destructive
behaviors. But self destructive patterns are not always so obvious, nor are their causes
always easy to understand.
We are self destructive when we spend beyond our means; when we are sexual in ways that
cause us to lose self respect; when we keep ourselves in personal relationships that cause
us to feel inferior, abused, or taken advantage of.
We are self destructive when we neglect our bodies and do not give them rest and
exercise; we are self destructive when we drive ourselves, overworking or over exercising
to please others or to make ourselves feel okay.
We are self destructive when we stifle our legitimate angers; when we turn our
disappointments into contempt for ourselves; when we avoid attempting our ambitions
because we will not accomplish them perfectly.
We are self destructive when we make others responsible for our lives,
- by blaming “them”
- by an attitude of helplessness
- by believing and behaving as if we have no capacity to change or to manage our own lives
effectively and pleasurably.
As women we are especially vulnerable to self destructive behavior which has its
roots in the sense of shame. Because we are sometimes ashamed of the simple fact of being
We can feel shame about our bodies
“I’m not pretty enough, or thin enough.” “My body is dirty because of my
Shame of competence
“I’m stupid.” “If I try I’ll mess it up.” “Some things I’ll
never be good at; I’m just a female.”
Shame in relationships
“How can I expect anybody to like me, I’m such a witch!” “People
think I’m foolish when I try to say anything.” “Who could love me, I’m so
Shame about our own character
“Why try? ” “I’m flawed.” “I’m disgusting.” “I’m
worthless.” I’m powerless.”
Addictions, compulsions, all the forms of self destructive behavior have the
perverse function to numb shame. When we are caught in self destructive tangles, we forget
to feel badly about ourselves — for the moment.
If you find yourself caught in the tangle of self destructive behavior there are many
avenues to recovery and growth.
Quit blaming yourself
Begin by taking a clear-eyed look at your life, right now. What’s working? What’s
making you happy? What’s not?
Define what needs to change
Recognize that change takes time. Give yourself both emotional space and sufficient
time to make the changes that will be useful to you.
(Thinking we should be able to do everything by ourselves is another self
destructive behavior!) Choose friends, helpers, teachers, groups, mentors,
therapists, who offer you honest feedback, new information, and useful support for
becoming the best of your own kind of person.
The process of recovery from addictive, compulsive, self destructive behaviors can be
overwhelming. You may be confronted by new emotions and flooded by memories. You may find
yourself replacing one set of self destructive behaviors with another.
Women seeking recovery from self destructive behaviors frequently find their progress
blocked by the previously unrecognized impact of psychological trauma, loss, childhood
neglect, abuse, abandonment, sexual assault, and patterns of emotional or physical abuse
as well as self neglect in adult relationships.
Too often the woman trying to recover from self destructive behavior finds herself in a
revolving door of treatment / self-help / relapse because the core processes of her
psychological and emotional development have not been attended to.
The key elements for moving beyond self destructive behavior are self awareness, self
responsibility, and a well developed process of personal choice.
Self destructive behaviors are rigid, unhealthy patterns of responding to feelings of
shame and powerlessness.
Change away from self destructive behavior proceeds by gathering the skills and self
awareness to move in the world with self assurance and self determination.