Understanding Self-Harm

Self-harm involves individuals intentionally inflicting harm on their bodies as a method of coping with intense emotions, distressing memories, or situations that feel overwhelming and uncontrollable. Specific past experiences or ongoing issues can trigger this behavior, and it often occurs when a person is in a state of emotional distress and inner turmoil.

Anyone can engage in self-harm; there isn't a specific type of person who does so. However, it is more common among young people, with around 65% of cases occurring before the age of 35, typically beginning during adolescence.

Self-harming actions can be either pre-meditated or spontaneous. Some individuals might only self-harm once or twice, while others may do it frequently, finding it challenging to stop. Although self-harm can temporarily alleviate distress and make individuals feel more in control, it does not address the underlying causes of their pain.

It's important to differentiate self-harm from attempted suicide. While self-harm is not intended to be fatal, individuals who self-harm are at a higher risk of suicide than those who do not. Therefore, it is crucial to take their behavior seriously.

People might self-harm for various reasons, such as to:

  • Express feelings that are difficult to articulate
  • Make invisible emotional pain visible
  • Convert emotional pain into physical pain
  • Manage overwhelming emotions or thoughts
  • Feel a sense of control
  • Escape traumatic memories
  • Have a reliable coping mechanism
  • Punish themselves for perceived faults or experiences
  • Overcome feelings of numbness or disconnection
  • Create a reason to care for themselves physically
  • Express suicidal thoughts without taking their own life

Common signs of self-harm include:

  • Cutting
  • Poisoning
  • Over-eating or under-eating
  • Biting or scratching oneself
  • Burning oneself
  • Inserting objects into the body
  • Hitting oneself or hard surfaces
  • Overdosing
  • Excessive exercise
  • Hair-pulling
  • Engaging in fights to get hurt

Understanding and addressing self-harm requires empathy and attention to the individual's emotional needs and the underlying issues they are facing.


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