Trauma and Self-Sabotage: A Story of a Terrible Friendship
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Our past shapes our future, and not always in a good way. While we all go through hardships in our life, it’s not easy to let go of those negative thoughts and emotions from those experiences as time goes on. Trauma can have a lasting impact on your mental health, which can lead to subconscious behavior that can interfere with your own joy.

We all want to keep ourselves from getting hurt, which is why we have a tendency to self-sabotage. Trauma and self-sabotage tend to go hand in hand. But how do they affect one another? And how can you break them up? That’s what we’re here to find out. 

We’ll talk about the basics of trauma and self-sabotage, how they affect your mental health, and the steps you can take to break their connection.

The basics of trauma

Before talking about how they impact one another, let’s explore the meanings of trauma and self-sabotage on their own. We’ll start off with what it means to have trauma.

Trauma refers to any experience that caused you emotional, mental or physical distress. It’s often an experience that you had or witnessed firsthand. There’s also secondary trauma, which means that you were indirectly exposed to the experience, such as someone telling you about it. 

Trauma isn’t the same for everyone, as an experience isn’t always perceived in the same way. There are many different situations that can be perceived as traumatic, including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse or assault 
  • Domestic violence
  • Car accidents
  • Injuries
  • Natural disasters

Some traumatic experiences may cause you to develop PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. It affects approximately 5% of teenagers, with about 1.5% having severe impairments from the disorder. The most common PTSD symptoms include experiencing flashbacks, reckless behavior and avoidance of potential triggers. 

The basics of self-sabotage

Sabotage refers to causing deliberate damage to something so that it can’t work properly. Self-sabotage means causing damage that will interfere with your own success and happiness. You’re basically standing in your own way to protect yourself from potentially negative outcomes.

While regular sabotage is usually done with a purpose, you might not even notice when you’re exhibiting self-sabotage behavior.

Self-sabotage behavior can include:

  • Starting unnecessary conflict or fights with your loved ones
  • Refusing to ask for help from others
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Making excuses or shifting blame

The terrible connection between trauma and self-sabotage

Self-sabotage is essentially a defense mechanism that we develop in response to many factors, including low self-esteem, a fear of change and conflicting thoughts. But one of the main reasons that people develop self-sabotaging behaviors is trauma.

Trauma is often a temporary experience that has long-term consequences because you’re in constant fear of it recurring. The trauma also may have caused you to develop anxiety or depression symptoms that interfere with your decision-making. That’s why people, either consciously or subconsciously, self-sabotage so that they are never put in a vulnerable position for that same trauma to occur. 

Many types of trauma, such as abuse and assault, can cause you to develop trust issues with other people or situations. You put a wall up in front of yourself, both mentally and emotionally, so that nothing can get close enough to have the chance to hurt you. But if you’re constantly getting in your own way, you may never reach your fullest potential or develop real connections with others. 

The good news is that Lightfully is here to help.

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help you break the connection between self-sabotage and trauma

If you recognize that you’re self-sabotaging, then you’ve already taken a big step in your mental health journey. If your trauma has caused you to develop self-sabotaging behaviors and thoughts, it’s time to talk to a mental health provider.

One of the best ways to break the connection between your self-sabotage behaviors and your trauma is to talk it out. With psychotherapy, or talk therapy, a licensed clinical therapist can help you explore the roots of your trauma and self-sabotage from every angle. They can also help you develop effective decision-making skills and coping mechanisms that help you become the happiest and healthiest person you can be.

If you’re ready to break up that terrible friendship between your trauma and self-sabotage, or you’re struggling with your PTSD symptoms, we have multiple levels of care that can help, including Residential Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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