You don’t have to be suicidal or depressed to be a threat to yourself. Sometimes, as performance anxiety or status anxiety pushes us to do more and be more, we lead ourselves down a dangerous path. Athletes, in particular, are always eager to push themselves to limit to win in highly competitive sports. They often risk what seems like little things, such as knee pain or muscle spasms, just to see if they can raise the level of their game just one notch above their competition. While this is an excellent celebration of the competitive spirit and the human ability to improve one’s self, it can also sometimes end up becoming the first step down the spiral of self-destruction.
Some observers have noted that modern civilization, with its intense focus on competition and achieving dominance, has put people and organizations along that downward spiral. No place is self-destructive behavior more prominent than in the arena of sports. In sports such as American football, baseball, and basketball, more and more athletes are coming under fire for taking performance enhancers such as anabolic steroids to enhance their physique and athletic performance. The trouble is that these athletes also develop addictions to muscle relaxants. The intense focus on becoming better and better has driven some to engage in training regimens that their bodies can’t handle. Sure, they are capable of ignoring the lower back pain or the attacks of chronic pain in their joints for a while, but it eventually adds up. Observers note that it only gets worse the more exposure an athlete gets, as the media puts even more pressure on them than the sport does.
In the field of entertainment, the self-destruction is not only recorded by the media for all to see but, in some ways, even marketed. The media is constantly pushing people to appear more and more like the waif-like celebrities they admire, subconsciously causing them to follow suit. As the obsession with getting as thin as possible takes hold, everything from weight loss pills to unhealthy fad diets are used and abused by not only the general population, but also the celebrities themselves. Unlike the self-destructive tendencies of athletes, the tendencies present among celebrities stems more from vanity and fashion than the desire to attain a higher level of physical prowess. While it is arguable on whether or not athletes are actually improving themselves with their actions, it is clear that the extreme dieting that the media espouses is unhealthy and fatal.
Ordinary people also seem to be affected by this unusual tendency towards self-destruction, albeit in an entirely different manner. While celebrities and athletes that are on the path of self-destruction tend to be doing it in a physical manner of their own will, most people who are self-destructive are such because of outside factors. The stress and anxiety of work, the pressure to perform both as a member of society and as an individual, and the stress of dealing with the daily paradoxes of life are starting to take more and more tolls from the average person. Statistics show that more and more people are developing a variety of mental health disorders, with depression, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia being the most common.†Some observers have noted this and have connected it to the nature of modern life, which puts people under such tremendous social, professional, and emotional pressure that the breaking point is being crossed more and more often.
While it is highly pessimistic to assume that this self-destruction is as widespread as some claim, it is rather alarming. There are more and more news reports claiming that athletes are engaging in dangerous training regimens and abusing various medications. Celebrities and models are progressively getting thinner and thinner, despite the constant warnings otherwise. In contrast, obesity is at an all-time high among the general population, despite the widespread availability of weight loss pills. Finally driving the issues home is the increasing number of people who have experienced or are experiencing some form of mental health disorder. The situation is not nearly as negative as some put it out to be, but there is a distinct possibility that it is getting there.