Video by Psych2Go

We’ve all been there. You know that nagging feeling that you should start eating healthier or stop procrastinating on an important project?

But despite your best intentions, you give in to that tub of ice cream or binge three more hours of Netflix.

Self-destructive behaviors like emotional eating, gambling, substance abuse, or chronic avoidance hold us back from living the life we really want.

U.S. Navy Master Commandant Oliver Perry (1812) once said, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” Our biggest battles are often within.

The truth is that we all engage in self-destructive behavior at times as a dysfunctional coping mechanism. Life hurts, and we reach for whatever numbs or distracts us from the pain.

Left unchecked, these impulsive attempts to self-soothe can spiral into lifelong habits that steal your joy and health.

The good news is there is power available to overcome even your worst self-destructive tendencies. Let’s explore how you can break free and start living in true freedom.

7 Self-Destructive Weapons You Turn Against Yourself

The Enemy Within

The first step to positive change is awareness. What exactly are the self-destructive weapons you turn against yourself? Here are some of the most common:

  • Shame – Letting guilt and regret weigh you down so you never move past mistakes. Dwelling on what you should have done robs you of joy in the present.
  • Compulsions – When you feel powerless to resist urges and impulses to do something harmful like overeat, gamble, hoard, etc. even when you know you shouldn’t.
  • Hopelessness – A feeling of giving up when challenges seem too big or your dreams seem out of reach.
  • Bitterness – Letting anger, jealousy, and resentment against other people brew inside you like a poison.
  • Insecurity – Letting fear of rejection, failure, or what others think of you control your behavior and keep you from taking risks.

Which of these self-destructive weapons do you struggle with the most?

Identifying the specific habits that trip you up is key to replacing them with healthier alternatives.

1. Freedom from Shame

Freedom From Shame

Many of your self-destructive behaviors have their roots in shame from the past.

We replay past failures over and over, punishing ourselves again and again for mistakes we can’t go back and change.

It weighs heavy like a ball and chain, preventing us from moving forward. But Jesus offers total freedom from condemnation for all who put their trust in Him.

When He died on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for every sin you’ve ever committed and ever will commit. The Bible says in Romans 8:1-2 (NIV),

1 There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

By covering the cost of your sin once and for all, Jesus freed you from shame and guilt’s power over you. When you belong to Him, your sin is nailed to the cross. The slate is wiped totally clean.

So whenever shame rears its ugly head, preach the gospel to yourself. Remember what Jesus did for you.

Let gratitude for His sacrifice wash away the pointless guilt weighing you down. 1 John 1:9 tells us,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

2. Renew Your Mind

Renew Your Mind With The Word Of God

Another source of self-destructive behavior is toxic thought patterns. Uncontrolled negative thoughts fuel strongholds of anxiety, anger, and depression in your mind.

Like a poisonous vine, they wind their way into every area of life, contaminating your self-image and relationships.

The antidote to this mental pollution is meditation on the Word of God. Carefully monitor your self-talk and replace destructive thoughts with God’s truth.

Romans 8:5-6 (ESV) explains that setting your mind on the Spirit leads to life and peace rather than the death spiral of your sinful nature’s perspective.

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

You can’t stop the first thought from popping into your head. But you can control what you dwell on.

When anxiety or bitterness creeps in, cry out to God to intervene. Ask Him to lift the dark veil clouding your mind.

Over time, fixing your eyes on His Word will renew your thoughts and transform your emotions.

Romans 12:2 (NIV) says,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

3. Say No to Sinful Compulsions

Just say no

One of the hardest parts of breaking self-destructive patterns is feeling powerless against the overwhelming urge to give in yet again.

You feel almost compelled to binge eat when stressed, snap at your spouse when tired, light up when anxious, or click on that tempting ad when bored.

Despite your best intentions, your willpower crumples. These sinful compulsions overwhelm your fragile resistance like a tsunami.

But Romans 8 has good news – with Christ’s Spirit living inside us, believers have a new power source to tap into.

His presence within you is greater than any urge, desire, or habit. When you feel too weak to just say no, His Spirit will strengthen you from the inside out.

1 Corinthians 10:13 declares,

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

The next time you face a self-destructive impulse, pause and pray for God’s supernatural help to resist it.

Remind yourself that with His power in you, the Bible says you are no longer obligated to give into your old nature’s demands.

Surrender control to the Holy Spirit, and He will give you a way of out.

4. Overcome Fear

Overcome Fear

Fear might be one of the most paralyzing self-destructive weapons you turn against yourself.

Anxiety about an uncertain future isolates you in the prison of the present. What-ifs keep you stuck in fear instead of moving forward.

When you feel afraid, remember who your Heavenly Father is. Cry out to Him for comfort and courage.

The Bible instructs us to “cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Turning your thoughts to God will defeat fear.

Faith is a muscle that grows stronger the more we use it. Each time you talk to God about your worries instead of feeding them, your reliance on Him increases.

Practice praying first instead of problem-solving on your own. Thank Him in advance for the good He promises to work out of your current situation.

Over time, fixing your eyes on God will starve your fears of their power over you.

God has not given you a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Walk forward in confidence of who holds your future.

5. Focus on the Eternal

Focus on God

One reason we get trapped in self-destructive patterns is short-term thinking. Our culture values instant gratification – what makes me happiest right now in this moment.

However, pursuing short-term pleasure at the expense of long-term health and goals leads to addiction and emptiness.

As Christians, we have the hope of eternity placed in our hearts. Everything in this life – both good and bad – lasts but a moment compared to forever with God.

When you face discouragement, loneliness, financial stress, relationship struggles, or chronic pain, remember that your current affliction is “light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

God promises you an inheritance in heaven free of sin, sickness, and death.

Cling to this eternal hope and you’ll receive strength and endurance to keep doing the right thing despite how you feel.

Trade instant relief for lasting fruit. This will train your habits toward self-control. With your eyes focused on your eternal future you won’t stumble chasing short-term substitutions.

6. Defeat Bitterness

Defeat Bitterness

As commonplace as breathing, the poison of bitterness infects us all at times.

Envy, resentment, anger, and entitlement easily take root when you don’t get what you think you deserve. Focusing on how others have wronged you justifies nursing grudges.

Here’s the problem – while bitterness feels temporarily satisfying, it’s actually self-destructive over the long haul.

Holding onto anger and hostility hurts you far more than anyone else. It’s like drinking rat poison hoping someone else will die.

God offers us a way to break free from bitterness’s stranglehold – to remember His goodness even when people fail us. Lamentations 3:22-23 says,

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

In moments of unfairness, remember that nothing catches God by surprise. He promises to work everything together – both good and bad – for your long-term good (Romans 8:28 NIV).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Though others might forsake you, He will never leave you. Vent your hurts to God. Ask Him to heal your heart and give you the strength to forgive those who have wronged you.

7. Battling Insecurity

Battling Insecurity

Few forces drive self-destructive behavior more than insecurity. The fear of not measuring up twists us into knots.

We become obsessed with managing other’s perceptions. Caught in this exhausting dance of performance, we lose touch with our own souls.

Here is the simple yet revolutionary cure for insecurity – soak in the unchanging truth that God loves you unconditionally.

Let it seep into the core of who you are. Because Jesus died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8), nothing you do can make God love you any more or any less.

When you know who you are and who you belong to, it frees you from dependency on other’s shaky approval.

“No one can serve two masters,” Jesus said. “He will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other.”

Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

You can’t simultaneously serve your self-image and God’s love – one will win out.

Let your identity get rooted in His unconditional love. This will free you from people-pleasing and comparisons. God’s love for you never changes. Living loved will change everything.

Key Takeaways

  • Taking control of self-destructive behaviors requires first that you identify which ones plague you most and then replace them with healthier habits.
  • Remember Christ’s total forgiveness defeats shame. Let the Holy Spirit renew your mind to counter toxic thinking.
  • With God’s power in you, you’re no longer a slave to sinful compulsions. Turn anxious thoughts into prayer and defeat fear.
  • An eternal outlook will give you the strength to endure present troubles and make wise long-term choices. Recall God’s goodness and care in unfair moments to counter bitterness.
  • When you find security in God’s unconditional love, it frees you from the exhausting treadmill of performance and people-pleasing driven by insecurity.


Friend, take heart if you feel stuck in self-defeating ruts. Habits that buried their roots deep over many years take time and daily dependence on God to overcome.

But He is able to do above and beyond what you can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Keep leaning into these truths, and God will transform you from the inside out. In Him, you are no longer a helpless victim of your old, harmful ways.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Walk forward in hope and freedom.

Frequently Asked Questions About Self Destructive Behavior

Q. What if I keep repeating the same self-destructive behaviors over and over?

A. Change is a process. Don’t get discouraged if you take two steps forward and one step back.

Overcoming destructive habits requires retraining your brain, which takes time and daily dependence on God’s strength, not your own willpower.

Celebrate small wins and get back on track after setbacks.

Q. Why do I engage in self-destructive behavior when I know it’s harmful?

A. Self-destructive habits often start as coping mechanisms to deal with stress or pain.

The quick fix feels good in the moment. But over time, they take on a life of their own.

By replacing lies with God’s truth you will make healthier choices aligned with your values.

Q. Can childhood trauma cause adult self-destructive behavior?

A. Yes, research shows that adverse childhood experiences often lay the groundwork for adult self-injury and other impulsive attempts to self-regulate.

Seek counseling to identify links between your past and current habits. Bring it into the light so God’s healing can begin.

Q. What’s the difference between self-harm and self-destructive behavior?

A. Self-harm involves intentionally inflicting direct physical harm on yourself, like cutting or burning.

Self-destructive behavior is a broader term that includes behaviors with indirect negative consequences such as substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, disordered eating, etc.

The root cause is often the same – difficulty coping with emotional pain.

Q. How can I stop engaging in secret self-destructive behavior?

A. Bring it into the light. Confess it to a trusted friend or counselor who will support you, not judge you. Ask them to hold you accountable and check in on your progress.

Hiding only prolongs the grip of shame. You’re not alone in this battle.

Q. Does self-destructive behavior mean I’m mentally ill?

A. Not necessarily. Many mentally healthy people wrestle with harmful habits like addiction, self-medication, or compulsive behaviors.

But long-term self-destruction can certainly take a toll on your mental health over time or be a symptom of underlying illness. Seek professional assessment to be sure.

Q. What if I feel stuck in despair and hopeless to change?

A. Hopelessness convinces you that you’re too far gone and might as well give up. But God is able to redeem anyone and turn your life around.

Let Him replace despair with hope. Your mistakes do not disqualify you from His love and healing. Take that next brave step.

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