Self-mutilation, or self-harm, refers to intentionally inflicting pain and injury on one’s own body. Cuts, burns, scratches, and other external injuries of self-harm are most common; however, internal and emotional harms can also occur, such as consuming large amounts of alcohol or drugs or participating in unsafe sexual behavior.
Individuals who self-injure may believe that they are releasing pent-up feelings of trauma, anxiety, anger, or sadness when they do so. Over time, however, these raw emotions are likely to continue to be present, along with feelings of guilt and shame. Even if the person does not wish to inflict long-lasting or significant damage, self-harm may be dangerous in itself.
Early childhood trauma like physical abuse, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse can often be a contributor to self-harming behavior. In some cases, it can also be an indication of serious mental health problems that are unrelated to trauma such as anxiety, depression, or borderline personality disorder. The sudden onset of self-harm may be caused by an attempt to regain control after an extremely disturbing event, such as being assaulted or enduring another traumatic experience.
According to recent data, rates of self-harm among adolescents and young adults range from 6 to 14 percent for adolescent boys and 17 to 30 percent for girls. However, people with mental health conditions and those with a history of self-injury can and do self-harm as well.
The short answer is no. Suicide attempts can be disguised as self-injury, and some of those who self-harm do end up attempting suicide. Still, many of those who self-harm do not intend to commit suicide. These individuals are merely attempting to distract themselves from-or alleviate-mental pain.
Because self-harm is often done privately and kept hidden from shame and fear, it can be hard to detect when someone is harming themselves. When self-injury occurs frequently, cuts, scratches, bite marks, and burns can all serve as warning signs. The presence of scars, bruising, and bald patches, especially those that show a pattern of repeated harm, are other physical signs.
A person may also appear more prone to accidents or to wear long sleeves or pants in hot weather to conceal self-injury; these behaviors may be an attempt to mask self-injury. Some people who self-harm also exhibit signs of depression or emotional instability, such as commenting on their sense of worthlessness or hopelessness.
Because self-injurious behavior is often done in secret or in an area that is difficult to find, there are many ways to hide it. Symptoms of depression or anxiety include an unidentified injury, multiple cuts, long-sleeved shirts (even in hot weather), and bandages.
Yes, generally. Neurobiological studies suggest, however, that self-harmers have a higher pain threshold. Additionally, self-harmers are usually calmed by pain rather than reacting negatively to it.
A recent study found that those who visit self-harm websites are 11 times more likely to consider hurting themselves than those who do not. By having a nonjudgmental conversation about these sites and mental health in general, parents can find out if their children are self-harming.
Depending on the circumstances. If you are self-harming or contemplating suicide, there are websites that offer resources for you. Alternatively, some promote self-harm or suicide by glamorizing it or by providing advice on how to conceal it or other dangerous aspects of it.
If you are suffering from self-harm, you should seek help as soon as possible. Typically, this is a therapist who specializes in self-injury, who can assist the individual in identifying the cause of their behavior and practicing healthier coping mechanisms.
It is also possible to get help from friends, partners, or other trusted loved ones. An individual who feels the urge to self-harm can mitigate the urge by talking about those feelings with a close friend-even if self-harm isn’t discussed directly-to help make sense of difficult feelings.
First, we need to respond with compassion and recognize that self-harm is a way to cope with painful feelings. After encouraging the individual to seek help, offering other outlets (such as exercise) for their negative feelings, and being available to discuss any difficult emotions they are experiencing, next, encourage them to seek help.
It is possible to reduce self-harm by identifying triggers and avoiding them whenever possible. The urge to self-harm can also be reduced by replacing it with self-soothing activities, such as painting, taking a hot shower, or exercising.
If you suspect someone close to you that you love is engaging in self-harm acts and behaviors, or you, yourself are engaging in self-harm behaviors, there is help available. Enhance Health Group has trained professionals ready to help you work through and heal through the underlying issues that you may be experiencing.
You don’t have to continue self-harm and can get the help you need. Contact us to hear about all of our programs and how we can help.