Stop Self-Destructive Behavior: Binging, Abuse or Over-indulging

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Stress manifests itself in many ways, including self-destructive behavior that we know is not good for us, but we can't stop doing it.

People under stress usually don't take care of themselves, but rather partake in self-destruction. These bad behaviors range from binging on junk food, not taking care of ourselves or turning to alcohol or drugs.

It is not always easy to admit our own problems and failures. But the first step in stopping is admitting we have a problem. In the same way that we learn self-destructive behavior, we have to learn how to stop those behaviors.

The irony of self-destructive behavior is that we do it to relieve stress and make us feel better. But these behaviors usually make you feel worse. Being in a caregiving role is enough to make people turn to self-destruction.

Here are some steps to take to stop self-destructive behavior.

Identify Your Indulgences

You probably already know what your self-destructive behaviors are. We know we should be exercising but we don't. We understand that eating an entire box of cookies isn't healthy, but we can't seem to stop ourselves. Once you know what your self-destructive behaviors are, you need to find out what is causing them.

What Triggers Self-Destruction?

What is happening in your life at the exact moment that your urge for the bad behavior hits you? These events are called "triggers."

Keeping a diary helps. Then, you know exactly what you were doing the moment your behavior began – in other words, what triggered the bad behavior. For example, every time you feel the need to light up a cigarette, or binge on a box of cookies, or grab the bottle of vodka, write down what's going on in your life at that very moment.

Most likely, you will see a pattern. You might find that every time you get a phone call from a sibling asking how your elderly parent is, you reach for a cigarette. It could be that verbal abuse by your parent with Alzheimer's disease triggers you to go in search of sweets. Or you might discover that whenever the issue of money causes concern, the only solution seems to be alcohol.

How to Counteract Your Triggers

Once you have discovered your triggers, you must figure out how to counter them. "Coping skills" such as taking a walk, calling a friend or logging on to an online support group makes you feel better. Usually, you feel some relief immediately. When you experience your trigger, try to use one of your coping skills. You will be surprised at how good you feel when you succeed at resisting the urge.

Take Baby Steps

Another technique is to reduce the bad behavior rather than trying to go "cold turkey". Smoking two packs a day is worse than a few cigarettes. Eating a box of cookies is worse than a couple of cookies. Work on decreasing the frequency and quantity of the behavior.

Don't Blame Yourself

Having a self-destructive behavior does not mean you are a bad person, or an abnormal one. A large majority of people have some form of self-destructive behavior. We are all the product of conditioning - it just may be time to re-calibrate that conditioning. Start taking care of yourself and learning to love yourself now.

Get Help When You Need It

Some people can't conquer it alone. There is no shame in getting professional help from a therapist or counselor. Be honest about your behaviors so you can get the help you need to stop self-destructing.

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16 Comments

I completely understand the need to get rid of the stress in our lives. Ice cream and alcohol numbs me for a short time, but the reality of life as a caregiver always comes back. My mother is 92 and has lived in my home for 16 months. It was a difficult transition for all of us. I've put many miles on the hallway floor warming up her tea that has "mysteriously" gone cold. She's hungry for "I dont want much, Im just a little hungry, I cant eat all that! Can you cut that in half? Oh its too spicy or peppery for me, just give me some broth". Whew. I feel so worn out at the end of the day and wonder where the day went because nothing got done. I used to drink when I got home from work until my counselor said that MY MEDS dont work with alcohol. But cookies and ice cream do. But after having 1 or 2 drinks a night , or eating a carton of ice cream in one sitting, or a whole package of choc chip cookies , I realize that Mom doesnt care what I eat or drink. It doesn't affect her at all. Let me repeat that, what I eat or drink does not affect my Mom at all... She doesnt feel sick after eating too much or drinking too much. I DO. So I have decided to make some new habits for my health. I try to eat only 2 cookies at a time. I drink hot tea instead of the alcohol, usually herb tea. Sometimes I will sit out on the back patio and watch the birds in the daytime or the stars at night. Sometimes she sits with me, and sometimes she just wants to watch TV. Mom is OK in her room by herself so I can have some time to myself. Mom watches her game shows, so I do something for myself. I started reading a book, I can pick it up anytime I want to and not miss anything. Im trying to not watch TV so much, I tend to zone out in front of it instead of getting things done while I have the time. Exercise? Well thats something to work on. Hope this helps.
I have a verbally abusive husband...for years i swept the problem under the rug...for tgepast 5 years ive self medicated with alcohol oover indulgence and we are separated now...he actually blames me for his leaving....I'm working on healing and getting on with my life without the abuse but there's damage

Good article but it doesn't help my sister. She won't eat much and is dwindling away ever since she learned she had lupus and is losing her hari. Doctors don't help and she has given up on herself. She's all bone and won't listen to us.