Self-harm is often kept secret. However, having the urge to harm oneself is common, especially among young people and teens. A surge of feelings and emotions in adolescence can be one of the factors. However, self-harm can happen to anyone.

There are many ways to support someone who self-harms. Having enough information about self-harm will help you and your loved ones in these tough times. There are also many types of services and therapies that can support people who self-harm. Understanding self-harm is the first step to overcoming it. 

What Is Self-Harm?

Self-harm or self-injury is the purposeful harming of oneself. It is a self-inflicted injury and not considered a mental health disorder, although some people who self-harm may have an existing mental health condition.

Self-harm is a way some people cope with their emotions. It is not a suicide attempt, but it can be a warning sign that the person is undergoing an emotional breakdown. It can only be a thought or an urge. As long as you are doing it intentionally, it is considered self-harm. 

The Cycle

Self-harm usually runs in a cycle. It starts with the person wanting to relieve emotional pain or built-up stress. It is a temporary alleviation or relief from distressing feelings and thoughts. While the underlying problem remains, guilt and shame may arise, continuing the cycle.

Self-harm as a temporary release may become a behavior or a habitual escape from the difficulties of life. Talking to someone you trust will help you get the right kind of support. It will be easy for you to break the cycle of self-harm by learning new coping mechanisms. 

Types of Self-harm

Any act that you purposely do to injure yourself can be considered self-harm. It can result in a minor or major injury. It may also leave permanent scars on your body or could be a threat to your health. The most common ways of self-harm are:

  • Cutting your skin with a blade, knife, or nails
  • Burning your skin with fire, cigarettes, candles, or matches
  • Bruising yourself
  • Punching things or punching yourself
  • Banging yourself against hard objects
  • Piercing your body with sharp objects

Other ways of self-harm can be through binge drinking, reckless driving, overdosing on drugs, and putting oneself in danger. 

Why Does a Person Harm Themself?

There are many different reasons why a person self-injures. Most of the time, people who self-harm have trouble dealing and coping with their emotions. Here are the usual reasons why people self-harm:

  • They want to make themselves feel normal. They see hurting themselves as a way to feel pain and emotions. 
  • Feeling pain will remind them that they are not numb or empty.
  • They want to distract themselves from any negative feelings.
  • They want to block painful memories.
  • They think they need to punish themselves for the wrong things they have done.
  • Self-harm is a form of relief from intense emotions like loneliness and anger.
  • They see self-harm as a cry for help.

For someone who self-harms, it is important to know the underlying cause of the problem to address the issue properly and correct the behavior. Your friend or family member can be a self-harmer. Here are some signs that someone is harming themself:

  • Has recurring bruises, scars, injuries, or cuts in any body parts
  • Makes excuses about their injuries
  • Keeping sharp objects without any reason
  • Wearing pants or long sleeves, even in very hot weather
  • Has questions about their identity
  • Changes in behavior, such as becoming more unstable, unpredictable, or being impulsive

If you see these symptoms of self-harm in a friend or loved one, it is time to offer support or seek help from a mental health professional. Self-harm cannot be overcome alone, so getting proper mental health treatment and services is essential to healing. 

Who Is at Risk for Self-Injury?

Self-harm can happen to anyone. It usually starts to happen in young people because they do not know how to deal with their emotions.

Different factors may push people to self-harm. It can be something that happened in their childhood, workplace, or home. Some are more at risk of self-harm than others. Here are some factors why some individuals have a greater tendency to harm themselves compared to other people:

  • Past and present mental health disorders, like eating disorders, anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, or other mental disorders
  • Children who left their homes and are not taken care of by their parents
  • Not getting enough emotional support from friends or family
  • People who were abused or experienced trauma as children
  • A person with a low self-esteem
  • Having a friend who also self-harms

Having the above-mentioned risk factors does not automatically mean someone will harm themself. Also, people who self-harm may not have any of the risk factors above.  

Mental Health Treatment

Many effective treatments can help someone with their self-harming behavior. In any treatment plan, psychotherapy or therapy is the most important. There is a need to manage someone’s emotions and learn a new coping mechanism in self-harm.

Talking to someone about your self-harm looks very difficult. However, the first step to getting help is to open up your feelings. It can be to anyone in your circle of close friends, an adult you trust, or even your school nurse. It is best to seek help from someone familiar with the situation.

A psychiatrist will be the best person to give you the proper treatment for your self-harm. You will have to answer questions about your life history, health, ways of self-harming, or past and present urge to self-harm. This information will help your psychiatrist to match you with the therapy you need. You may be given some medications if you have an underlying mental disorder.

Do not be ashamed to ask for help. You are not the only one experiencing self-harm. Book an appointment with Kentucky Counseling Center now if you need someone to talk to.

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