Self-Punishment: How It Impacts Your Mental Health & What To Do About It

Last Update on May 14, 2021 : Published on May 17, 2021

Have you done something wrong to someone, knowingly or unknowingly, but now it bothers you inside deeply. And it bothers you so much that you are living your life in regret, guilt and self-blame. While these emotions are difficult but common, not most people deal with them in a healthy manner and bring self punishment into the picture.

Self-punishment may look like a coping mechanism as the person feels that they are in full control of their life’s decisions and can reduce their emotional pain. For this, some people try to inflict physical pain whereas some torture themselves emotioanlly. Well, let’s have an elaborate explanation about self punishing behavior, why not to practice it and how to stop punishing yourself for past mistakes.


What Is Self-Punishment?

Punishing oneself is imposing a penalty as a result of an offense. As we all have to deal with punishment in some or the other forms, by parents or teachers, it is no less than a threat.

Although punishment is not a negative concept overall because it makes one realize their boundaries, rules and shapes our overall perspective towards the society. However, self-punishment psychology shows that many people deal with guilt or moral transgression due to many factors and apologize in unhealthy ways.

Where Does The Feeling Of Self-Punishment Come From?

If we see the forms of self punishment then it can come in physical as well as emotional form. For example,

  • Negative talks or lecturing themselves mentally
  • Holding back a reward and not giving yourself the happiness you deserve
  • Continuing to stay in the negative feelings
  • Skipping meals or overeating
  • Cutting oneself or pulling hairs or punching on the wall (Self-injury)

Now if you think why ‘I need to be punished’ or why this self punishing behavior shows up again and again, here are possible reasons.

1. Believing That we Deserve It

We learn shame at an early age and this feeling shows up when our parents, teachers or caregivers make us realise that such behavior is not up to their expectations. Now if the feeling of unworthiness can show up for our own mistakes, we often think of punishing ourselves.

2. Believing That Suffering Will Improve Us

It’s good to desire to become a better human being but distressing yourself emotionally on failing is just not the key. Many people are seen to give themselves physical pain as they feel it will improve their performance or show accountability for their actions.

3. Way To Relieve Guilt

Sometimes we feel that apologies alone will not be enough and self punishment can raise the value of yourself in your own eyes. Studies have also shown that those who underwent self-punishment tactics felt less guilty later on.

However, sometimes self-punishment can be motivating and bring a positive change in the behavior. But one has to take into account the limitations or else it becomes harmful. It can create more distress, depression and mood disorders if criticism continues in the longer run.

Questions To Ask Yourself

If you are in the state of self-punishing then here are some questions you should ask yourself.

Q1. Is this behavior constructive or just harmful in the longer run?

Q2. What else can I do straightforwardly to amend my behavior rather than giving pain to oneself?

Q3. Can this behavior have lasting effects on body and mind?

Q4. Can I do something productive and healthy and replace it with negative self punishing behavior?

 How To Love Yourself & Show Self-Compassion?

How To Love Yourself & Show Self-Compassion

You may feel relieved and calm after inflicting punishment but this is not something you should feel proud of. Rather look for alternatives! The first thing is to realize that we all tend to make mistakes and it’s a part of human nature and you shall love yourself, regardless of the flaws. It can not only promote self-worth but also improve oneself for positive changes. So start with:

1. Self-forgiveness

Blaming oneself is the easiest task but forgiving for your mistakes may be a challenging one. Pick your challenge here and let it all go. Show yourself that you can do better and grasp every opportunity to make your life better.

2. Rewarding Yourself

Don’t you reward yourself when you find you have done something amazing? Now if you feel something bad was done, take a break rather than punishing yourself. Reward yourself with exercises, walk in nature, beautiful sunshine and good food to boost your mood.

3. Ask For Therapy

If you are dealing with a long standing pattern of self punishment, it is certainly tough to overcome alone, especially when you can’t even face the world. Your personal life, relationships, professional life and more gets seriously affected. But if you ask for help and talk to a counsellor or therapist, they may help you to deal with the behavioral changes of negative memories, self-harm behavior and talking to oneself negatively. You can even ask us to connect you with a therapist by messaging us at

Show Love, Make Peace!

After learning about self punishment psychology and how much it impacts your health and time, we are sure that you would want to switch to better alternatives. Keep yourself motivated and boost your inner understanding for a positive growth.

About The Author

Akanksha Soni
Akanksha Soni

Akanksha is an active lifestyle blogger and writer at Calmsage. She has learnt various lessons on happiness and methods to fight depression through 'Gurus' as well as own experiences. An ardent practitioner of Yoga and meditation, she keeps traveling, writes and interacts with people to feel alive.

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