Death wish

Other Names:
Desire for death
Wish for self-destruction
Death instinct

The wish for self-destruction or self-harm expresses itself in the life histories of countless individuals. Some destroy their lives; others their careers; and others their relationships with other people. It is a sometimes invisible, corrosive force eating away at human development.

There are a number of theories to explain this phenomenon: Psychoanalysts, following Freud, speak of a death instinct; some feel this works as an efflux from the powers of the root psychic force, the libido. To other analysts it is an energy in its own right, the destrudo; while again for others, the self-directed destructive energy is distinguished as the mortido: this is supposed by some to be biologically situated although triggered by physical or mental reactions to what the organism perceives as deep-level pain, and thus constitutes an escape hatch. Others deny the biology, and say it is not an instinct but a psychological drive arising with the development of the individual psychic structure. Still other analysts suspect a positive purpose to what might be termed, self-reducing, or self-limiting tendencies in the psyche.


44% of Germans want to die before age 80, although 54% would reduce their calorie intake by half, and 10% would give up sex if these tactics could ensure them an extra 20 years of life.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST