Addressing Destructive Behaviors Linked to Mental Illness

April 19, 2021 Laura A. Barton

Mental illnesses can have destructive behaviors that accompany them, and these behaviors can often be difficult to understand and, like mental health in general, cloaked in stigma. Because of that, addressing destructive behaviors linked to mental illness can be a challenge, but it's an important part of showing support to those who struggle.

Destructive Behaviors Linked to Mental Illness and the Impact of Not Understanding Them

First off, what do I mean when I say destructive behaviors linked to or that accompany mental illness? It could be a variety of things, such as punishing oneself, engaging in risky behavior, disordered eating, and more. These can be overt or more subtle behaviors, they can vary from person to person and in severity, and they can also be patterned behavior.

Destructive behaviors linked to mental illness can be scary or seem "crazy," and having little familiarity or understanding of these facets of mental illness can contribute to mental health stigma and the idea that mental illness is synonymous with violence. The lack of familiarity and understanding coupled with stigma can make it difficult to approach someone struggling with their mental illness and address these behaviors. It can prevent people from receiving help.

A friend and I had a chat about destructive behavior patterns brought on by mental illness. She lives with bipolar disorder, which comes with manic episodes that can lead her to destructive behavior patterns. She mentioned how a crash course for the people in her support system on how to handle manic episodes and their aftermath would be beneficial and how there's not a lot of information available on supporting someone with mental illness. This can lead to a lot of us feeling like we're facing these struggles alone. I agree with that.

How to Help Someone with Destructive Behaviors Linked to Mental Illness

Sadly, there is no official guide for addressing either mental illnesses or the destructive behaviors linked to them. However, there are two key tips I want to share on how to help someone dealing with destructive behaviors as a result of their mental illness.

  1. Have open communication. This goes for all parties involved—both the person with mental illness and their supports. Communication means sharing both perspectives, asking questions to work together effectively, and overall facilitating a positive, stigma-free relationship.
  2. Speak with others who are in similar situations. This can also go for all parties involved. Connecting with others in the same or similar position as you can ease isolation and open up your mind to different perspectives. For the support person, you can potentially get ideas of how to help those with destructive behaviors that accompany mental illness. For the person with mental illness, you can potentially learn ways to help others understand where you're coming from.

There are undoubtedly many more ways to help someone with destructive behaviors due to their mental illness, and I encourage everyone to share their ideas so we can learn from each other. We may have to write our own guide, but together, it's possible to address destructive behaviors linked to mental illness.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2021, April 19). Addressing Destructive Behaviors Linked to Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Find her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

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