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Self-Sabotaging and Depression: The Symptoms

Life is filled with barriers and obstacles – many of which we create ourselves. This behavior is known as self-sabotage, and many people engage in it without even realizing what they’re doing. Does this mean they have a mental health condition? Is self-sabotaging a symptom of depression?

What Is Self-Sabotage?

Before we can answer the question, is self-sabotaging a symptom of depression, we should take a moment to discuss what this term means.

Sabotage is the act of inflicting damage to prevent something from working properly. This word is often associated with military conflicts. Disrupting the enemy’s communication technology, disabling their vehicles, or damaging their munitions factories are all examples of military sabotage.

Self-sabotage refers to intentional and unintentional acts that create difficulties in your own life. Self-sabotaging behaviors can diminish your quality of life, prevent you from achieving your goals, and otherwise stop you from progressing toward the future that you desire.

Self-sabotage typically involves fewer spies and explosives than the military version does, but it can still have a devastating effect.

Examples of Self-Sabotage

Here are five examples of what self-sabotage can look like and how these behaviors can make a lasting negative impact:

  • Procrastination – Waiting too late to apply for that job you were interested in, or submitting subpar work because you didn’t get started until just before the deadline, which prevents you from doing your best work and advancing in your career
  • Substance abuse – Numbing yourself to your emotional pain, which does nothing to address the root of the problem, but which is likely to make things even worse
  • Poor financial decisions – Spending on frivolous items and not saving when possible, which can leave you with insufficient funds when a true opportunity presents itself
  • Establishing unrealistic expectations – Setting a goal that you simply cannot achieve, which can have the effect of undermining your confidence and making you less likely to try something new again
  • Perfectionism – Holding yourself to an unattainable standard, which can cause you to spend too much time on projects and leave you unsatisfied with the results

Why Do People Self-Sabotage?

As we noted earlier in this post, self-sabotage can include both intentional and unintentional actions. In other words, some people make conscious decisions that they know (or should know) will turn out poorly, while others may not even realize how they are getting in their own way.

In either scenario, several factors can increase the likelihood that a person will engage in self-sabotage. Here are three common causes:

  • Fear – Whether acknowledged or not, fear of failure can prompt people to act in ways that appear to go against their own interests. For example, if you fear that you can’t handle the pressure of being a supervisor, you may sabotage your chances of being promoted.
  • Low self-esteem – This is similar to fear, except that instead of being afraid that you might fail, you convince yourself that you simply don’t have what it takes to earn a promotion, get a raise, land that new job, or make other types of progress.
  • Mental or behavioral health condition – We’ve already identified substance abuse as a type of self-sabotage – but if you have developed an addiction, you may not be able to stop this behavior without proper care. Similarly, the symptoms of some mental health conditions (such as low motivation or impulsivity) can cause acts of self-sabotage.

Is Self-Sabotaging a Symptom of Depression?

Is self-sabotaging a symptom of depression? 

Not according to the standard reference for clinicians in the U.S.

As established in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the criteria for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, or other forms of depression do not include self-sabotage.

However, this doesn’t mean that self-sabotage has no relationship with depression. It’s not uncommon for people who have depressive disorders to engage in self-defeating or otherwise maladaptive behaviors, including self-sabotage.

If you’ve been dealing with both depression and self-sabotage, receiving appropriate mental health treatment may alleviate your conscious or unconscious proclivity for self-sabotage.

But how can you know if you have developed a depressive disorder? Just keep reading – we address common signs of depression in the next section.

Depression Symptoms

Depression can look and feel different from one person to the next, but certain feelings and behaviors are common among most people who have this condition. 

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms such as the following, you may have developed a depressive disorder:

  • Pervasive sadness
  • Anhedonia (the inability to experience joy or pleasure)
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, activities, or other pursuits that used to be important to you
  • Pulling away from friends and family members
  • Spending increasing amounts of time by yourself
  • Sudden, unpredictable mood swings
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Forgetfulness
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness, and/or exhaustion
  • Abnormal sleep patterns, which may include sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or too little (insomnia)
  • Change in appetite and resultant unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Vivid, distressing nightmares
  • Low motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness, which can include inappropriate or excessive guilt or shame
  • Recurrent thoughts of death and dying

If these symptoms sound familiar to you, you should schedule an assessment with your family doctor or another qualified healthcare provider. Completing a thorough evaluation and receiving an accurate diagnosis can be important steps on the path to treatment and improved health.

Find Depression Treatment in Atlanta

If you have been struggling with depression and self-sabotage, please know that help is available. When you find the treatment that aligns with your needs and goals, you can learn to manage your symptoms, regain control of your behaviors, and start living a much more satisfying life.

Peachtree Wellness Solutions is a premier provider of life-affirming care for adults whose lives have been disrupted by depression and other mental health concerns. Treatment options at our center in Atlanta, Georgia, include residential care, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), and an intensive outpatient program (IOP).

In each of these programs, you can work in active collaboration with a team of experienced and compassionate professionals. We understand that every person who develops a depressive disorder is affected in a unique manner, and we are committed to providing you with a truly personalized experience while you are in our care.

To lean more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.