Early deadline of Wingword Poetry Prize coming soon. Submit your poems now!

Self-Destructive behaviour

Kavya Srivastava

“In order to understand, I destroyed myself”
– A self-destructive person.

Self-destruction behaviour is a potentially harmful or deleterious behaviour which not only dismantles the person engaged, but also the people around them. Although, there are not any predetermined set of signs or listings to match with what the person is suffering from. All of this comes from an individual and how certain incidents in his/her life have been pertaining. Sometimes, even the methodical people go through such situations often, without their knowledge.

In such a lifestyle where everything is binary, from societies to the people around you, sometimes even your parents. As kids, we seem to adopt what we observe around and make our categorization of right or wrong decisions accordingly. But, sometimes, there are shades of grey, your shades of grey, that nobody knows, not even you. You don’t understand how to deal with a certain problem, or overcome a certain situation, maybe hiding something, being someone else and a lot of that. In such scenarios, all we want is happiness and satisfaction, a break from all this heat, this endless marathon that we all are running constantly!

Every second we try to prove ourselves and be presumptuous in all the ways possible. We try to convince ourselves, standing in the mirror asking ourselves to like us, to accept our realities and stop being hard on our own selves. But, do we really follow? What really causes all the negativities, insecurities and panic in our heart that makes us a little closer to a behaviour like this?

Self-destruction is perceived as a symptom of any other underlying dysfunction or psychological disorder that a person might be experiencing. Such type of conduct can be intentional or subconscious impulsive or planned, it basically varies from person to person and what he/she is actually dealing with. Self-destructive behaviour can be seen in many forms, including anti-social, addictive and compulsive behaviour, self-injury, neediness, and irresponsibility.

Although, there is no mere elucidation for any sort of behaviour that any individual manifests, but there a few set of observations or commonalities found which can be the reasons or explanation for such discernible exhibiting. This can include great loss or deep pain followed by trauma, a person might have faced in his/her life, earlier. Other reasons may include, self-loathe, stress, anxiety, sudden unhappiness, depression, mental illness (For eg,- BPD- Borderline Personality Disorder), some might not even be aware that this is even a problem. The scale of self-destruction or the type of behaviour that an individual exhibits, is not necessarily in their hands. Rather, sometimes their unconscious mind wants it so much, that without their knowledge, it becomes a necessity, or a habit! Sometimes, people engaged are somewhat aware of their own destructive tendencies, but fail to do anything to stop or to change them.

Engaging in such behaviours need not necessarily just engage you to harm yourself physically. There is no perfect scale to line up the steps a person would follow, but yes, we can say that the maximum would be committing suicide. The people who convey such behaviours might wreck themselves, emotionally, mentally, physically with/without their knowledge.

These behaviours may include:

Substance Abuse- Consuming alcohol, drugs are one of the most common forms of self- destructive behaviour and people find it easy to use such methods to calm themselves, ranging from tiredness, emotional trauma to nerve wrecking breakdowns. Consuming them might easily lead to addiction, might give a negative impact on relationships, destroy opportunities and employment. On the top of this. it can also lead to other physical and mental health complication. I would like to quote an example to bring this type into more light, not just because its very common, but also, I believe that people are greatly vulnerable to this type of behaviour.
“If a person feels stressed about his work, or maybe something about his personal life, or maybe he just feels wrong about everything. In such a situation, the easiest thing that he would reach out to would be alcohol or drugs, as a coping mechanism and if he continues to follow it, he would never know, when all of that would become his necessity.”

Self-harm- Self harm is also another example of a coping mechanism which comes with if the person is dealing with extreme emotional disturbance of severe trauma. Such type of behaviours makes them feel numb, and that is what people engaging in such behaviours want, not to feel anything. And once, when they do it, it takes them to that place, so they want to do it repetitively which might get them addicted to self-harm.

Unhealthy eating- Self destructive behaviours might also include unhealthy eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimid. A person might engage in emotional eating by making him go through either binge eating or starving. This causes the person to loose/gain excessive weight, which not only has physical health ramifications, but also may contribute to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Self-pity- People are usually compassionate and empathetic, but they always have a limit. There is a time in everyone’s life when a certain sort of emotion kicks in, be it their insecurities, self-abuse, being uninventive etc. At such a point, where a person regularly tells himself that he is not worthy, he might just believe it. It becomes so difficult for them to come out of such a phase and tell themselves that its all right, that they take the next best path, which is escape! They might use their problems as an excuse to not try something new or just not improve at all. All of this not only damages their relationships, but also its complete self-damaging because now you feel that you are just a burden and not even worth it. They start to shield themselves by keeping them away from people, or they might just isolate themselves, or they might just pretend. It might be variant from person to person.

Self-Sabotage- Self-sabotage involves basically being eternal pessimistic. A person who can find a reason as to why it not worth trying, or why nothing will ever work out. They seem to focus more on the negative possibility of everything or “worst case scenario overthinking”. It might even cost them, their relationship, job opportunities, and of course, their mental sanity. People suffering from this, usually settle themselves up for failure from the beginning. They also tend to feel that they do not deserve anything which might also lead low self-esteem and self-contempt.

Social Isolation- Normally, the act of being around other people provide different benefits from stimulating chemical production in the brain. But people who are in this category of self-destruction, may convince themselves that they do not deserve to be around people, friends or family which ultimately makes them break contacts, ghosting, picking up fights and engaging in arguments. This makes them loose people and the situation states, they get themselves totally isolated from the outside world.

Unnecessary spending- Spending money can evolve into a self-destructive behaviour. In this situation, spending money acts like a coping mechanism, be it spending money in excessive shopping, and donating for good causes or gambling, which is a well-established self-destructive behaviour.

Neglecting self- In a situation where a person feels totally unworthy and burdensome, he/she neglects their own mental, physical and emotional health. It is like vicious circle where people again end up hating themselves, because nothing is really improving. They also tend to refuse to do anything to protect or grow their health.

Self-destructive behaviour not only makes you feel relaxed as a coping mechanism, as mentioned in many of the heads above, but it also makes you feel confident that you are now making the choices of your life. Hence, people might engage in such behaviour when they feel out control or nothing seems to go according to them in their lives. At some point of time, it doesn’t even matter to them what their boss, wife or doctor says, they can put anything in their body and take control of their lives. This might sound a little twisted, because the person engaged, wont even know, if they are doing anything wrong, because they might be feeling good about this. What might make it even more complicated, is basically when entangled people starts to see this behaviour as a coping mechanism and make it a part of their identity.If we look at the physical/medical effects of being engaged in self-destructive behaviour, it might feel pleasurable in the beginning (especially in the case of addicts and alcohol), but once they get in the habit of using them as a subsist, their body would be needing it, and it would then become a necessity for the body and the brain. The type of behaviour, a person is induced in, would effect him/her accordingly and so would the consequences.

Talking about emotional/mental effects of inducing in such behaviours, the person might suffer from emotional dysfunction, which is often a driving force behind self-destructive behaviours. It can result from brain injuries, early childhood trauma like neglect and abuses or a variety of psychiatric disorders and person.

People who go through self-destructive behaviours obviously have a lot going on in their heads all the time and they might distance themselves away from you or their loved ones, but we shouldn’t forget that all they need is love, affection and cure. The least we can do is firstly help them identify the situation and the problem and them get through. People engaged in such behaviours always have that one core point that triggers them or their intensity of destruction. Obviously, we can’t change that, but we can talk to them about it and help them move on. And if we cannot do either of these, then the least would be, not to mess with their heads and leave them in peace, giving them some positivity, maybe unanticipated texts or calls and checking up on them. We all are co-existing creatures on this planet, and although we don’t, but as humans we should always look out for one another. We can help them get a healthy support network and help them recover from this situation. This process can also involve digging through their pasts and figuring out what bothers them there, at the centre, which is causing them all this pain and suffering. Although the ability to process the emotions associated with trauma and grief is not intrinsic, still it must be learnt to help uncoil these emotions so that they can be put to rest.One very important step would be helping them reaching out to a therapist or a counsellor and help them find their peace of mind.

Lastly, I would like to conclude the writing by saying that every person alive has their own value on this planet. They are important to people and no one deserves to be snubbed or hated. We all should synchronize as human beings and learn to help people and believe in them. Mental illness is something that wasn’t that much bothered about, until recently. It is very important to look out for such people and help them, make them believe in their existence, and make them see a therapist. Usually people say, that mental illness is only for the weak and who would bother paying that amount of money for telling someone how you feel. But, in the true world, any person can feel naïve, vulnerable, depressed or could be a survivor/fighter behind that smile, irrespective of whether he was strong. This is just another taboo for us to judge people from the inside. Judging people is not okay, telling them “everything will be okay” is not okay. Listen to them, give them the positivity they might need, look out for them and you have nothing good to say, then maybe try not saying anything.

“A sunflower always faces the sun, but when the sun hides behind the clouds, the Sunflowers FACE EACH OTHER!”.
Be someone’s sunflower and help them cope.


Leave a comment