What is Self-Sabotage?

Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting. These acts may seem helpful in the moment, but they ultimately undermine us, especially when we engage in them repeatedly.

People aren't always aware of their own self-sabotage as the effects of their behavior may not show up for some time. Unfortunately, connecting a behavior to self-defeating consequences is no guarantee that a person will disengage from the behavior. Still, it is possible to overcome almost any form of self-sabotage, and people do it every day. There are behavioral therapies aimed at interrupting ingrained patterns of thought and action and strengthening deliberation and self-regulation processes. Motivational therapies reconnect people with their goals and values. There are even computer programs that help eliminate the constant temptation of online distractions.

Recent Posts on Self-Sabotage

Heroin Addiction Is Destroying the Lives of Young Americans

Every day, approximately 125 Americans die from a heroin or opioid-related drug overdose. What can we do to stop the rising death toll? To learn more, please read this blog post.

Are Narcissists Born or Made?

Narcissism can be understood through developmental theory, but it can only be addressed through honesty and hard work.

How Do You Give Away Your Power?

How to avoid five common habits that hurt your progress.

Fear and Shame on New Year's Day

By Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D. on January 01, 2016 Don't Delay
The Roman god Janus, for whom January is named, had two faces. One looked back to the past; the other looked forward. As we do this today, let's talk about how this makes us feel.

Why New Year's Resolutions Often Produce the Opposite Effect

...one of the pioneers in the field of ironic mental control is quoted as arguing that the secret of making successful New Year's Resolutions is to keep them affirmative

Sober New Beginnings and Dry January

There’s pressure to get into the holiday spirit from all corners and there is often unspoken social pressure and friendly encouragement to overindulge in food and drink.

My Advice to a Baseball Player in a Slump

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on December 18, 2015 How To Do Life
Lessons that may apply to any of us that are on a bad streak.

5 Ways We Reject Love (and How to Stop)

Most of us don't realize all the big and small ways we push love away, but these behaviors are sure signs we're doing just that.

Social Media, the Network Effect and Procrastination

By Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D. on December 07, 2015 Don't Delay
There’s an army of growth hackers working in the tech industry to hook you deeply into social media. Their job is to break down your self-regulation. The result? Procrastination.

The 3 Most Common Causes of Insecurity and How to Beat Them

Do you find yourself feeling unconfident and filled with self-doubt? Are you just waiting to be exposed as inadequate? Find out why you feel insecure and what to do about it.

Procrastination, Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease

By Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D. on December 01, 2015 Don't Delay
Personality traits can confer risk. This recent study documents how procrastination is a factor for poor adjustment to and management of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Goodbye Perfectionism: I'm Done With The Anxiety You Bring

Have you had a long term relationship with perfectionism?The head games may be more dangerous than you realize, and get in the way of making new friends that are a lot more accepting, better for your health, and fun to be around.

Do We Really Always Fall Off the Wagon?

Depictions of relapse in pop culture make it seem inevitable for addicts.

5 Ways Mentally Strong People Conquer Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is inevitable, but the way you respond to it is your choice.

Fortress of Fear: Why We Sometimes Sabotage Opportunity

By Seth Slater M.F.A. on October 26, 2015 The Dolphin Divide
Is psychic re-wiring worth the effort after the damage is done? When our experiences teach us to fear, opportunity-sabotaging anxiety, isolation, and distemper can result. The causes of fear are numerous and wide-ranging. Is turning the tide with new behavioral history worth pursuing?

How to Finally End Up With the Right Partner

Each new partner seems so much better than the last one, at least in the beginning. But looking back, the similarities between them are undeniable.

What Is Hindering Your Success?

What Is Hindering Your Success? It Might Be the Fear of Losing a Part of Yourself. By Max Belkin, Ph.D.

Why Can’t I Get Over My Ex?

An ex can occupy our thoughts and heart for days, months, or even years after a break-up. When you can’t seem to get over an ex, more accurately remembering how our relationship really was can help us move on.

I Love Me a Lot, but I Think I Should See Other People

The primary virtue of being “lovable” is that, unlike being “loved,” it’s entirely within our control. Its secondary virtue lies in the fact that being lovable greatly increases the chances of being loved, although the latter ultimately depends on how lovable other people perceive themselves, as reflected in their behavior.

Preventing Regret

What people tend to regret the most near the end of their lives is that they have not been more compassionate, loving, and supportive to those they love. A presage of this kind of regret comes with the untimely death of a loved one. The common self-doubt, even in relationships that were very close and loving, is something like: “Did she really know how much I loved her?”

Yes, It Really Is Possible to Avoid Arguments: Part 1

When faced with a threat to our ability to influence or control our place in an important relationship, ancient fears can be activated that awaken memories or trauma from previous experiences in which others who possessed greater authority than ourselves may have exploited our vulnerability or dependency on them in ways that were hurtful or damaging to us.

Protected Against Presence

Presence can be an idealized—but powerfully defended against—missing ingredient in relationships that work as co-created psychological defense systems, called irrelationships. Presence, the very thing we say and think we want can be a terrorizing force threatening to erupt as love, care and compassion—the very things that irrelationship is built to protect us against.

The Analyst and the Author

By Pythia Peay on September 21, 2015 America On The Couch
I was well into my second decade of analysis when I hit a wall in my freelance writing career. It was early 2000, and, gathering my courage, I’d submitted a query to George magazine—with its marriage of politics and celebrity, one of the coolest “glossies” on the newsstands at the time—only to have it politely rejected.

My Mother Is Destroying My Social Life

By Barbara Greenberg Ph.D. on September 20, 2015 The Teen Doctor
How To Repair Your Relationship With Your Mother

Do Tennis Champions Reveal the Secret to Mental Toughness?

The study from Middle Tennessee State University also found that the coaches rating of their tennis players' mental toughness bore no relationship to the athletes' own assessment. The coaches seemed to be basing their assessment of mental toughness of their players on their general results and rankings — yet this may be misleading.

What Makes People Do the Same Stupid Things Repeatedly?

If we assume as I do that they are not mad, bad, or stupid, how do we account for people with personality disorders who continue with the same disastrous behavior patterns repeatedly with the exact same disastrous results? Or who go from one extreme to the other, and still end up at the same place? Could it be that the end result is actually their goal? And why?

Brain Injury and Cell Phones

Do you hold your cell phone up directly to your ear? Hold it in your bra? Learn about the dangers.

Why Roger Federer Is Great

By Stanton Peele on September 08, 2015 Addiction in Society
Roger Federer has remained at the very top of an individual professional sport, tennis, through his mid-thirties. What about him allows him to do this, and what can we learn from it?

Deal or No Deal? Exploring Relationship Deal Breakers

What are the turn-ons and what are the turn-offs when you scan the personal ads? What happens when the "dream date" turns into a "worst case scenario"?

This Trait Costs Men Money, but Makes Them Marriage Material

By Jared DeFife Ph.D. on September 01, 2015 The Shrink Tank
Would you rather have a broke partner or a broken heart?