The self-defeating behaviour (SDB) begins when we need to alleviate a negative feeling, such as anxiety or unhappiness. Instead of dealing directly with the cause of the problem that causes this feeling, we find a way to offer ourselves a temporary reprieve or comfort. This is known as the minimising effect – the initial anxiety is minimised so that it is forgotten or at least relieved.

The self-defeating behaviour is the irony in modern life, the self-fulfilling prophecy that states that what you set out to avoid, you will come back to in the end. Because the SDB has some initial benefit, the sufferer will sustain it for as long as possible using the four sources of mental energy – the minimising effect, denial, fear of change and disownment.

The initial behaviour, whether a cigarette, a piece of chocolate or a routine, can help relieve the tensions or stress that the sufferer is experiencing.

Because this behaviour feels so good, it can become the way (in future) to deal with similar stresses and anxieties. Once this becomes a ritual or routine in itself, the anxiety can switch to getting enough of the relief, or getting anxious about the visual effects of the relief – in the case of food, putting on weight.

SDB’s are powerful yet subtle mechanisms that help to relieve stress and anxiety, without having to meet the anxiety head on. They are extremely common in modern western life, partly through the availability of food, drugs, alcohol, celebrity and a culture that celebrates excess.

Left unchecked, the SDB can paralyse the sufferer, either through an affliction like OCD, or though medical problems connected to the stress relief.  For many people, an SDB is a way of life, and using any method, can sustain it for years.

Sufferers usually come to therapy when the behaviour has taken complete hold, and they are spiralling downwards to the point of breakdown, whether that breakdown is mental or physical.

If you have a self-defeating behaviour that you would like to overcome, please call me on 01933 626253 or email to arrange an appointment.