Self-Sabotage

What Is Self-Sabotage?

Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in our life and interferes with long-standing goals. Among 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, or the damage it is causing, because 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. There are behavioral therapies that can aid in interrupting ingrained patterns of thought and action while strengthening deliberation and self-regulation processes. Motivational therapies reconnect people with their goals and values. A novel set of self-sabotage interventions are computer programs that help eliminate the constant temptation of online distractions.

Get Out of Your Own Way

There are many potential reasons why a person might act in a way that proves damaging to his or her well-being. Some individuals, of course, spend much of their lives struggling with powerful cravings for food, drink, sex, and other temptations that come with painful costs to their health or relationships. But the forces that lead to self-sabotage can also be more subtle, such as an accumulation of dysfunctional and distorted beliefs that lead people to underestimate their capabilities, suppress their feelings, or lash out at those close to them. An important aspect of dealing with counterproductive behavior is identifying where it might be coming from.

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