Self-injury involves the act of deliberately harming one's own body. Though self-injury behaviors can be correlated with suicidal ideation and attempt, often, self-harm is meant as a way to cope with emotional pain, such as intense anger and frustration. Harming oneself is meant to act as an emotional release. While undergoing these behaviors can result in a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, guilt, shame, and the return of painful emotions usually follow. Additionally, self-injury comes with the potential for more serious and possibly fatal self-aggressive actions. Thus, it is extremely necessary to seek help for these behaviors.
What are some possible symptoms of self-injury?
- Patterned scars
- Fresh cuts and wounds
- Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in warmer weather
- Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
- Statements of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
What should you do if worried that a friend/loved one is self-harming?
Although initially one may feel as if they have betrayed an individual's confidence for seeking help, self-harm is too big a problem to ignore or to deal with without seeking professional help. *Note: information provided that details self-harming behavior is a limit of confidentiality.*
- Child --- consult their pediatrician/healthcare provider; can provide an initial evaluation of behaviors and injuries and/or can provide a referral to a mental health professional.
- Teenager --- suggest they talk to parents, a teacher, a school counselor, or another trusted adult
- Adult --- gently express concern and encourage the individual to to seek medical and mental health treatment
What are potential causes for self-harming behavior?
- Coping skills --- an individual may find it hard to develop healthy ways to handle psychological pain/may not have access to healthy outlets
- Difficulty managing emotions --- hard time regulating, expressing, or understanding emotions to the point where self-harm seems to be the only option
- Person may be trying to...
- Manage/reduce distress and anxiety; provide relief
- Use physical pain as a distraction method to avoid feeling painful emotions
- Have a sense of control over their painful situations and feelings
- Feel anything in the face of feeling empty
- Express internal feelings externally
- Communicate feelings to the outside world
- Be punished for perceived faults
What are the risk factors for developing self-harm behavior?
- Often starts in pre-teen and teen years in which emotions are fluctuating and there is an increased risk of peer pressure, loneliness, and conflict
- Broader life issues --- neglect, abuse, trauma
- Mental health issues --- high in self-criticism; commonly associated with BDP, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and eating disorders
- Alcohol or drug issues
What does treatment for self-harm look like?
- The first step is to voice what is going on so that help can be reached
- Psychotherapy can help with:
- Identifying and managing underlying issues that trigger self-injuring behavior
- Learning skills to better manage stress
- Learning how to boost self-image
- Developing skills to improve relationships and social skills
- Develop healthy problem-solving skills
Here at Madrigal, we are committed to addressing self-harm in a holistic manner to reach your best potential.
*This information was adapted from Good Therapy. Click here to learn more information.*