After The Scam – Victims Frequently Engage In Self-Defeating Behaviors

Psychology of Scams

A SCARS Insight

Self-Destructive Behavior & Scam Victims

After the scam, how you view yourself is important!

After the scam ends and you discover the truth, you are in a state of shock! You don’t know what to do, but you have to do something or you will explode!

But it seems like everything you do only makes things worse!

Do you feel like every time you take a step forward you take a few steps back? Do find yourself engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors? Do you have negative thoughts about yourself or your ability to reach your goals? Do you continue to engage in unhealthy habits even though you KNOW they are keeping you from growing?

Self-destructive behaviors can take many different forms, and not only do they harm the person performing them, but they also have the potential to hurt those around them.

Self-Defeating Behaviors

Self-defeating behaviors are behaviors that move you away from the goals that you have set for yourself. These behaviors are distracting and self-sabotaging and cause us to feel exhausted and bad about ourselves.

Theories suggest that self-defeating behaviors are a kind of defense mechanism, fooling people into thinking that they are coping with stress, pressure, social demands, etc., while others suggest that self-defeating behaviors help a person to stay within their comfort zone (e.g., if someone feels a lack of self-confidence, they may sabotage a job opportunity to remain at a certain career level).

Scam victims often sabotage their emotional recovery because they feel like they need to remain angry, they need to get revenge!

Some people feel as though these behaviors are impossible to resist.

Common types of self-defeating behaviors include:

  • Physical/mental neglect
  • Self-criticism
  • Perfectionism
  • Self-pity
  • Procrastination
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Social withdrawal/alienation
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Refusing help or hostility to those that try to help
  • Over-spending on fruitless services
  • Relationship sabotage
  • Over/Undereating
  • Self-injurious behaviors
  • Drug and alcohol abuse/self-medication
  • Obsessive focus on what harmed them
  • Staying angry and enraged
  • Looking for revenge & vengeance

What Causes It

What Causes Self-Sabotaging Behavior?

Just as self-destructive behaviors are diverse, there is no single cause of these acts. However, there are theories as to why they may occur.

Many self-defeating behaviors can be attributed to experiences of trauma or loss, such as the romance scam a victim experiences. These may include events like experiencing a violent crime, the death of a loved one, or divorce, but more simply put, these behaviors often correlate with someone’s sense of self-worth being damaged, for example when they have been exposed to abuse.

Adults who engage in self-destructive acts many times have histories of childhood trauma, which can include sexual, physical, and verbal abuse as well as parental neglect. Studies show that these types of traumatic experiences are significant predictors of physical self-harm.

Trauma can also cause people to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products, which can be used to escape emotional pain or to feel good.

However, what was once a way to provide self-comfort may eventually become an addiction, and over time, substances will be used to manage withdrawal symptoms rather than for pleasure and relief. Many people struggle with withdrawal symptoms, which keep them in a vicious cycle of substance use, despite knowing the consequences of their actions.

Additionally, some people may engage in self-sabotaging behaviors because they feel insecure. For example, someone might believe that they are overweight, and they may starve themselves or binge and purge in an effort to lose weight (as seen in eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia). Often the results are drastic and excessive, and eating disorders can cause malnourishment and other health problems. A romance scam is very capable of leaving victims feeling insecure.

Some Traits And Indicators Of Self-Destructive Behavior

There are a number of traits associated with self-destructive behavior, as well as signs that a person may be engaging in it. Some are obvious, while others are more subtle.

  • Depression, Apathy, And Pessimistic Beliefs
  • Impulsive Behavior And Lack Of Self-Control
  • Neglecting Responsibilities
  • Sabotaging Relationships
  • Martyrdom, Self-Sacrifice, And Victim Mentality
  • Emotional Sensitivity

How To Counter Self-Destructive Behaviors

What can you do if you feel as though you are engaging in self-destructive behaviors?

  • Start by identifying the behaviors in your life that you feel are getting in the way of reaching your goals. Insight is an integral part of changing your behavior.
  • Get real. Find ways to stop minimizing these unhealthy behaviors and rationalizing their presence. Examine how a behavior really impacts your life.
  • Don’t get down on yourself. Being overly critical of yourself or thinking that you are “weak” creates a worse self-concept, often leading to lower self-esteem and confidence.
  • Make it harder to act impulsively. Do you find that you overeat when you are stressed? Keep foods that you tend to binge on out of the house. Do you overspend when you are sad? Only withdraw enough cash for your weekly expenses and make access to your debit/credit cards more difficult.
  • Practice mindfulness. Focusing on the present can help you to more readily identify your emotions and the behaviors that are getting in the way of your goals.
  • Start to self-reflect. Journaling or keeping a daily log of healthy habits can be a great way to build positive patterns of behavior.
  • Seek professional help. Meeting with a counselor or psychologist can be an important part of reducing unhealthy behaviors. A psychologist can help you to identify triggers that lead to your self-defeating behaviors and provide tools to help you replace them with healthier options.

Self-defeating behaviors can have a variety of causes and can therefore be helped by multiple treatment methods.

Therapy is generally recommended for people who have self-destructive tendencies because rather than simply managing symptoms, it can get to the root of the feelings of shame and guilt that are likely to have caused the harmful behaviors in the first place. A therapist can also help change the way you feel about your life, which is a core part of modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

You can find qualified trauma therapists here:

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