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What Is Self-Sabotaging Behavior?

Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in daily life and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors include procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting.

People aren't always aware that they are sabotaging themselves, and connecting a behavior to self-defeating consequences is no guarantee that a person will disengage from it. Still, it is possible to overcome almost any form of self-sabotage. Behavioral therapies can aid in interrupting ingrained patterns of thought and action while strengthening deliberation and self-regulation. Motivational therapies can also help reconnect people with their goals and values.

Why Do People Sabotage Themselves?


An important aspect of dealing with counterproductive behavior is identifying where it might be coming from. There are many reasons why a person might act in a way that proves damaging to his or her own well-being. Some individuals, of course, spend much of their lives struggling with powerful cravings for food, drink, gambling, or other temptations that come at a painful cost 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 around them.

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