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 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 have the power to 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 patters of thought-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

Earth to Humans: Why Have You Forsaken Me? Sunk Costs

By Kenneth Worthy Ph.D. on July 25, 2015 in The Green Mind
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Fears: Staring Straight into the Dark of What Scares You

People have talked sense to me. When you’re frightened everybody tells you things that make perfect sense. That’s when you realize it isn’t sense you’re looking for.

10 Steps to Restoring Trust in Relationships

Time to stop recycling old patterns of behaviors that keep you stuck in unsatisfying relationships.

2 Words That Could Mean You Have a Drug Problem

What you say to yourself and to others about your drug or alcohol use is trying to tell you something. Listen.

What Drives Emotional Abuse in Relationships

Everyone in an abusive family loses dignity and autonomy. You become unable to decide your own thoughts, feelings, and behavior, because you are living in a rigid pattern of defensive-reaction that runs largely on automatic pilot.

4 Traps to Avoid When You're Filled with Anxiety

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Denial Only Makes Chronic Pain and Illness Worse

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Mortality and the Luck of the Draw

By E E Smith on May 25, 2015 in Not Born Yesterday
A woman who reportedly went to extraordinary lengths to protect herself, and still died in a freak accident, reminded me of another who did much the same thing, and still met death in an unexpected way. The two had little in common except how far they went in order to stay alive, which––as it turned out––was not in the cards.

3 Steps to Resolving the Conflicts That Hold You Back

By Ken Page L.C.S.W. on May 23, 2015 in Finding Love
This simple technique is designed to deepen all of your intimate relationships, including your relationship with yourself. Each of its three steps leads to a deeper state of authenticity, a gentle, skillful “overthrow” of the inner and outer voices which hold us back from deeper love.

Cause and Effect in Wine Drinkers’ Health

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So many of us are afflicted with negative, left-over-from-childhood, programming that keep us from reaching our full potential. In my many years as a psychologist, the two self-defeating inscriptions I’ve encountered most are “I’m not good enough” and “I can’t succeed” (or “will fail”). And there are many other self-defeating beliefs that hold us back. . . .

Break the Self-Betrayal Habit

By Kimberly Key on May 12, 2015 in Counseling Keys
People generally fear the disapproval of others—society, family, a first crush, bullies, or fear being different and alone. To compensate, sometimes people will work harder to acquire money and possessions, sex, love, food, alcohol, drugs, constant relocating and starting over, and/or isolating. Here is what you can do to identify and heal the source so many bad habits.

9 Ways to Get Past Self-Pity

Mentally strong people refuse to feel sorry for themselves. Instead, they use life's inevitable hardships to grow stronger and become better.

Brainlock 101—How We Can't Help Becoming Stuck

You are trapped—by your own brain activity and chemistry, by developmental patterns from the past, by the way your patterns and your partner's patterns interlock with one another, and by social forces that are hard to see. Read about how this becomes "Brainlock" and cements you (in a plural sense) into a state of irrelationship.

The 15 Things NOT to Do to Have a Better Life

Top behaviours that guarantee misery for yourself and others

Why Mentally Strong People Don’t Dwell on Self-Pity

Every minute you spend hosting your own pity party is 60 seconds you delay working on a solution.

Tame Your Sabotaging Self-Talk, Part 1

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5 Ways to Know When to Leave the Relationship

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5 Neuroscience Based Ways to Clear Your Mind

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Holding a Grudge Produces Cortisol and Diminishes Oxytocin

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Work Smarter, Not Harder by Breaking Bad Habits

Just like a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, we're only as good as our worst habits. Getting rid of worst habits allows us to operate more efficiently.

9 Ways Your Old Programming May Be Holding You Hostage

When I speak of “old programs,” I’m referring to childhood decisions you made to better adapt to a conditionally accepting family. After all, when you’re highly dependent on your caretakers for comfort, guidance, and support, what could be more essential than feeling securely bonded to them? For you certainly can't function autonomously. . . .

How to Win the Willpower Battle

By Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D. on December 21, 2014 in Living Forward
You don't need more willpower to achieve your goals, instead what you really need is more motivation.

Reversing the Psychology of Competition

By Linda Esposito LCSW on December 16, 2014 in From Anxiety to Zen
How to beat yourself at your own (mind) game. Entrepreneur extraordinaire Gary Vaynerchuk shares one amazing psychological hack for dealing with the competition.

The Scientific Approach to Changing Your Life

By Lisa Firestone Ph.D. on November 18, 2014 in Compassion Matters
Whether it’s their job, their relationship, their city or themselves, most people have something in their lives that they're hoping to change. What most of these people probably don't know is that there is an actual science backed by 30 years of intensive research that reveals how lasting change is possible.

ENVY: Bane of Existence or Gift of Nature?

The possibility of the healthy maturation of envy, a novel construct in envy theory, affords those dedicated to resolute self-change the possibility of its healthy transformation. This is a potential gift. The experience of “raw envy,” in this way, morphs into more conscious and complex attitudes that include health-promoting admiration and emulation.

A Brief History of Psychiatry

Psychiatry can be neither "brainless" nor "mindless." Unfortunately it has tended to be one or the other for much of its history. Can we go beyond choosing sides?

When Your Penis Won't Do What You Want

By Isadora Alman MFT on October 06, 2014 in Sex & Sociability
Erections can be a sometime thing. What is your penis telling you when they don't happen?