“I am not good enough to get the job..”

“I do not work well under pressure, I won’t make the deadline..”

Self-defeating behaviors can be your own worst enemy. These thoughts play on repeat when we encounter stress. It is common to retreat to negative behaviors during challenging times.

Unfortunately, these thoughts and behaviors prevent us from focusing on solutions and a healthy mindset. This resource goes over what is self-defeating behavior, and the common types of these behavior patterns.

Alcohol and drug abuse is a self-defeating behavior. For those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, our San Diego drug rehab provides individuals treatment options catered to your needs. At Healthy Life Recovery, our health experts can help you overcome substance abuse and its self-defeating behaviors.

What is Self-Defeating Behavior?

Self-defeating behavior can be any behavior that typically results in something the person does not want to happen. Although, even when the desired goal happens, that goal causes more bad things than good; this is also self-defeating behavior.

Social psychologists have been studying and learning self-defeating behavior for the past 30 years. They have discovered numerous things that can lead to self-defeating behaviors. However, psychologists still want to learn more about what these behaviors have in common, and how to reduce the effects of these behaviors.


Common Types of Self-Defeating Behaviors

Listed below are examples of self-defeating behaviors. 


The behavior of avoidance is shown when you dodge certain people and situations to prevent feelings of hurt or pain. There is logic to avoidance behaviors in the short-term. If you don’t get involved, you can’t lose, however, you can’t win if you don’t even try.


Perfectionists want to accomplish things perfectly, despite it being impossible to be 100% right, 100% of the time. It is not unusual for a person with low self-esteem to show patterns of perfectionist behavior. They justify that being perfect will make everything okay. In reality, trying to do everything perfectly can bring a lot of stress and anxiety, lowering self-esteem even more.

For example, say you are very concerned about your appearance. So, you spend a lot of time getting ready. When friends ask you to participate in sports or going to the beach, you make excuses. You fear others might look at you in the way of being less than perfect. 


When a person is embarrassed or ashamed to show their true self, they might demonstrate hiding behaviors. They may hide certain parts of their behavior, such as their sexuality, personality, or appearance, and try to cover it up. By engaging in hiding behaviors, people feel like they fit in with everyone.


People who show passive behavior believe that others around them are more worthy and do not stand up for their rights. They are the people who are hunched over in the corner of the room with their arms crossed. Passive behaviors demonstrate being quiet even when you have something to say, staying away from tension, agreeing when you don’t really, and apologizing without reason.


When a person constantly has to seek approval from others, they are demonstrating attention-seeking behavior. This happens when they have low self-esteem and are very concerned about receiving positive feedback from others around them.


Aggressive behavior is used as a defense mechanism to shield others from their low self-esteem. This self-defensive type of behavior can include physical aggression, as well as yelling, bullying, and demeaning others.

Alcohol or Drug Abuse 

Drug and alcohol abuse is another self-defeating behavior. For addicts, and sometimes non-addicts, substance use is a trade-off. A person trades off the risks of using drugs and alcohol for the temporary benefits it brings. Typically in the long-term, the risks will outweigh the temporary benefits.


Suicide is viewed as self-defeating or counterproductive behavior. A person commits suicide to escape from the negativity in their life. They trade off the fear of death and the good things in life, to no longer feel pain. Suicide is counterproductive in the way that ending their life will allow them to reach a certain goal, of not having problems. 

More self-defeating behaviors include:

  • Physical/mental neglect
  • Self-criticism
  • Self-pity
  • Procrastination
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Refusing help
  • Overspending
  • Relationship sabotage
  • Over/Undereating
  • Self-injurious behaviors
selfdefeating behavior

What’s Wrong With These Behaviors?

Patterns of self-defeating behaviors are not only damaging to the person doing them, but also to the others around them. These behaviors are a temporary solution to problems and can be harmful if continued in the long run.

If you want to get rid of these behavior habits, the first step is to recognize them. Once you see them, write them down along with the pros and cons of each one. It is important to think about the long-term and short-term effects of each behavior.

After recognition, the next step is to pick out one you want to challenge yourself with to make a change. For instance, if you recognize that you show passive behaviors towards your friends, perhaps be the one to invite them to go out. Otherwise, say no when they ask you to do something that you don’t really want to do.

Get Help Today

Whether a person is showing self-destructive behavior with aggression, hiding, or even substance abuse, it is crucial to recognize the signs so that they can be changed.

If you or someone you love is battling a drug or alcohol addiction, seek help before their self-destructive behavior worsens. At Healthy Life Recovery, our recovery staff provides individualized treatment plans, because we know no two battles are the same. Call our San Diego rehab today to get started with your journey to recovery.

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