Self Harm | Self Injury

In the U.S. between 2 and 3 million people exhibit some type of self abusive behavior. In the UK British Medical Journal of 2002 it was reported that as much as 13% of 13-19 year olds cut themselves on a regular basis. In the U.S. it is estimated that one in every 200 teenage girls regularly cut themselves. These numbers themselves are alarming, yet, the number of cases of cutting and self harm are continually rising. Without treatment the likelihood of continued cutting and self harm into adulthood is great.

Although young women make up the majority of self harmer's, young men also self harm. Self harming occurs in all walks of life, ethnicity's, and socioeconomic backgrounds. There is one common thread found with self harmer's, they were usually abused in some way as children. The levels of abuse vary. From overt physical, sexual or verbal abuse, to lack of attention and love from their parents. The common result is that each of these individuals suffer from a deep severe ongoing emotional pain. Self harm takes many forms. From cutting, to picking at, scratching or burning one's skin, hitting oneself, drinking poisonous substances, breaking ones own bones. Famous people that were self-harmers.

Why Would One Self Harm?

It can be difficult for non self harmer's to understand why someone would cut or harm themselves in some kind of way. It comes down to deep inner pain. People who suffer deep inner pain try in some way to make it go away, to relieve the pain. For some, they choose to try and make it go away by abusing alcohol or using illicit drugs. Self harmer's similarly use this method to temporarily make the deep feelings of pain go away. Some do so because their abusive experiences make them feel as is they are worthless. Such physical scars that are made are physical manifestations of the inner scars that they have been given.
Cutter cuts the words I will never be good enough on his arm

As a coping mechanism many who suffered abuse have trained themselves to feel nothing. As a result some will cut for the sensation it gives their body to prove they are in fact alive. To feel something instead of just emptiness.

Cutting helps them relieve the pain and tension they feel inside. Feeling they have no control over all the other things, cutting gives a sense of being in control. Distracts them from their overwhelming emotions and the difficult circumstances they may be in. Cutting is also a method used to help relieve guilt and to punish self.

Cutting is used to inflict physical pain in an attempt to relieve the emotional pain that is being felt. In all cases of cutting in some way it makes them temporarily feel better.

When Do Self Harmer's Self Injure?

Self injuring usually occurs when one's feeling of anger, frustration, guilt or shame, self hatred, fear or remorse, has reached an overwhelming point. The smallest disappointing or hurtful thing at that point can trigger the desire to make it go away by self harming. It is done as a coping mechanism when one feels it is the only way to cope with what they are feeling.

Having experienced some temporary relief of pain, cutting can quickly become an addiction just as alcohol and drugs may be for others. However, just like drugs and alcohol, in the end it only adds to the problems one has. Self harmer's understandably are usually very secretive about it. They hide it from their friends and family. This in fact only compounds the problems they are dealing with as their burden deepens, the way they feel about themselves worsens, and their relationships usually suffer.

Myths and Facts about Self Harm
  • Those who self harm are dangerous or crazy: This is simply not true, self harmer's are just like everyone else who suffer from depression, emotional traumas, or anxiety. Self injury is just the way they have learned to cope.
  • Self harmer's do so for attention: If this was true, why would they do so in secret? The opposite is true. Self harmer's usually have feelings of shame and fear, making it difficult for them to open up and ask for help.
  • Self harm is not a big deal if the wounds are not bad: Cutting can do serious and lasting physical harm. However, the severity of the wounds has no bearing on the real issue, how much they are hurting inside.
  • Self injurers want to die: Because of their internal pain it is true that self harmer's do have a much higher risk of suicide than the general population. But most self harmer's do not want to die at all, self harm is just the coping mechanism they use to temporarily relieve the pain they are feeling inside. 

Self Harming Warning Signs:
  • Insistence on always wearing long sleeves and pants.
  • Frequent unexplained injuries blamed on mishaps or being clumsy.
  • Blood stains often found on tissues, towels, clothing, or bedding.
  • Unexplained cuts, burns, bruises on the arms, wrists, thighs, or chest.
  • Sharp objects found on person, rooms, in their belongings.
  • Irritability and isolation of self for long periods in their bedroom or bathroom.
If You Self Harm You Should STOP, Here's Why:
  • You could really hurt yourself badly even if you do not mean to.
  • If you do not learn better ways to cope with your inner pain you are putting yourself at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse, major depressive disorder, and even suicide.
  • Cutting or self harm can become an overwhelming compulsive addiction that in the end controls you.
  • The relief is only temporary, the underlying problems are still there. Cutting just in fact in the end compounds feelings of shame and guilt. 
  • Cutting and self harm is a temporary coping mechanism that is only putting a band aid on your pain, keeping you from learning more effective ways of feeling better. Cutting and self harm does not deal with the real issues that made you want to cut in the first place.

To Cope With How You Are Feeling Try These Proven Methods Instead:
  • Confide in someone: This can be very scary to do, however, confiding in someone you trust can be a huge relief as you now have someone to share what you are going through with. This could be a friend, a teacher, a counselor, a relative, anyone you feel is not going to gossip, someone you can trust, someone who will support you. It may be very difficult to do this, but do. Because in the end once you get past the fear and do so, you will begin to feel better.
  • Figure out why you cut: This is a vital step to recovery. Cutting as you know is just a temporary relief for how you are feeling, confronting the triggers that make you want to cut, the things that are making you feel sad, angry, shame, emptiness and loneliness, will help you start developing healthier more effective alternatives for coping with them. By paying attention to your feelings instead of numbing them, you will in the end begin to feel better.
  • If you self harm to soothe and calm yourself: Try substituting cutting with soothing things such as, listening to calming music, massaging your hands neck and feet, cuddling with a pet, taking a hot  shower or bath, or cuddling in bed with a blanket.
  • If you self harm to express intense emotions and pain: Try instead writing down these negative feelings and afterward ripping the paper to shreds, write a poem about how your feeling, Start journaling and write your feelings in a journal at these moments, draw paint or scribble on a large piece of paper with red paint or ink.
  • If you self harm to release anger: Try instead screaming into a pillow, punching a mattress or cushion, rip something up like a magazine, or exercise vigorously.
  • If you self harm because you feel numb or disconnected: Try taking a cold shower, hold an ice cube in your hand or under your arm, chew something with a strong taste like a grapefruit peel or peppermint, or go online and chat on a message board or self help chat room.
  • Instead of cutting try: Rubbing ice across the skin where you would otherwise cut, put rubber bands where you would usually cut and snap them, or use a red marker to mark where you would otherwise cut.
  • Get professional help: Millions of people just like you suffer with an addiction to self harm. Self harm however is just a temporary relief for the emotional pain you are feeling inside. Talking with a professional therapist will start you on the way to dealing with the reasons you harm yourself. With therapy you can find real solutions for dealing with your pain, and like many others come through on the other side a much happier person inside. Be strong and get real help for yourself. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it is a sign of strength.

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