By: Terry A Rifkin L.C.S.W.

Self defeating behavior is not just a form of unnatural behavior; it often indicates a personality disorder especially when it occurs regularly or in a certain pattern. Such behavior or disorder can present itself in many ways. It is important to recognize such indications so that the behavior and the condition can be corrected.

Recognizing the Behavior

This behavior manifests itself in many ways and is not hard to pick out. Mainly, self defeating behavior is when a person jumps into situations wherein he/she is expected to suffer or face a struggle. At the same time, he/she veers away from experiences and situations that can give pleasure to them. Even if a person already has resources and opportunities to enjoy themselves or have fun, they will make a conscious decision not to do so.

People exhibiting the self defeating behavior more likely make conscious choices to enter situations that have high chances of going downhill to failure or disappointment. Although a lot of people make such mistakes when placed in a tough decision-making process, people who defeat themselves consciously choose the negative option even if there are better options around.

Aside from that, another characteristic of the self defeating behavior is when the person responds negatively even to positive news, information, or events. A person with such a disorder is more likely to provoke arguments in other people, and when the argument occurs, they end up feeling upset about it. Also, if this person has the ability to do things for the benefit of other people, many times when it comes down to the fact that this will be for his/her own benefit, they rarely ever finish the task. This is another strong sign of the disorder.

Another classic indication of people suffering from such a personality disorder is that refuse help from others, so this behavior can be quite challenging to correct. They not only refuse help; they also reject people who appreciate them.

Some of these indications can be normally found in people under various circumstances, especially stressful ones. However, if the behavior applies to almost any struggle and not just on certain times like when a person is depressed, then he/she most likely has self defeating behavior. These feelings and beliefs are sometimes accompanied by certain associate features, such as major depression, suicidal behavior, and/or depression.

The Causes

There are many theories about the cause of this disorder. Some theories blame a person’s childhood or upbringing, some blame biological causes. Although the disorder is not widespread, it is easy to see why self defeating behavior is a serious condition that needs to be addressed. The main danger is that people with the condition often give up their own happiness or comfort for other people, whether the latter asked for it or not. Thus, this can lower a person’s self esteem and affect his/her entire life.

Overcoming the Behavior

To overcome such a disorder, a long term behavior modification treatment plan is usually recommended. The treatment may even take years since changes in behavior are gradual. In treating self defeating behavior, it is important to relieve a person with the disorder from sources of anxiety and depression. There are also medications that can help with the “problem”, although these have limited benefits and sometimes pose greater risks. Thus, psychological and behavioral treatment are preferred.

Treatment plans differ based on individual cases, but these often include counseling in the form of individual, group, or family therapy. Families are important sources of support because they can help influence the person’s behavior most effectively.

Terry is an author and highly sought out expert on eating disorders, depression and anxiety. She frequently speaks to special groups and businesses in the Southern California area and can be followed on her blog at this link.