Self-Harm Doesn’t Always Look the Same: When to Seek Help

Self-harm is often kept secret and may be more prevalent than you think, especially in young adults or adolescents. This type of behavior is usually not suicidal but rather a way of dealing with emotional pain or anger. It provides relief for a short period of time, followed by bouts of guilt or shame. 

This purposeful harming of one’s body usually occurs when people have experienced trauma, neglect, or abuse. It is important to understand this affliction is not characterized as a mental disorder but rather a sign of needing better ways to cope with emotional stress. It shows that a person is in extreme psychological pain, and it’s vital to find treatment for the underlying issues.

What is Self-Harm?

Intentionally causing any type of injury to oneself would be considered self-harm. Many people may injure themselves a few times and then stop, but others find it helpful in curbing their emotional pain, and the behavior becomes long-term. This type of action can become impulsive when a person becomes upset or experiences strong emotions, which may trigger the behavior.

Most people who engage in self-harm focus on their arms, legs, or front of their torso because they are easily reached and can be covered by clothing. The guilt and shame felt after an episode can create more emotional pain, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Those who engage in self-injury may find one or more ways to hurt themselves.  The biggest risk factors are being female, having mental health disorders, having friends who self-injure, or drug and alcohol abuse.

Signs of Self-Harm and Self-Injury

It can be difficult to know if a friend or relative is engaging in self-harm behaviors because it is often done in private. Having knowledge of the signs and symptoms is vital in knowing how to get help for self-harm.

1. Wearing Long-Sleeve Shirts or Long Pants Especially on Warm Days 

The scars and damage done when a person is cutting their arms, legs, or stomach can be profound. They do everything possible to hide the evidence due to guilt and shame. This is one reason they start spending more time alone, so they don’t have to explain the action of covering up their body.

2. Claiming to Be Accident-Prone 

Some self-abusers make up excuses for new cuts, broken bones, welts, or bruises and blame it on being clumsy. They display impulsive or unpredictable behavior and may become increasingly irritable if they are not left alone to self-harm.

3. Difficulty Maintaining Close Personal Relationships

There is a tendency to withdraw from all social interactions and spend more alone time so they can injure themselves in private. The guilt and shame associated with the cutting create a feeling of low self-esteem, and they tend to pull away from everyone. The only exception is if they find a friend that will self-harm with them.

4. Emotional Instability

The urge to hurt yourself may start with intense anger, pain, or frustration and a need to relieve overwhelming emotions. The act of cutting, burning, or hurting our bodies causes a release of endorphins, or pain-killing hormones, which causes an emotional high and provides temporary relief. Then the guilt, shame, and self-loathing emerge, and the cycle begins again.

How to Get Help for Self-Harm

A common myth is that those who engage in self-harm are doing it for attention. But those who hurt themselves are searching for relief or control of the negative emotions causing them pain. When you are searching for self-harm help, it is imperative to reach out to a professional who is familiar with this subject since it’s extremely difficult to stop the behavior by yourself. 

There are many different types of treatments and therapies. Breaking the cycle of self-harm can be difficult because you are ending a behavior that has brought comfort from pain, but it can be done. It is important to reach out for help from those who are trained in this type of behavior modification.

Do your best to open up to those around you who are trying to help and trust that you can learn alternative ways to deal with your painful emotions. The professionals at Orange County Behavioral Health are there to assist you through this process. Reach out today by calling 949-900-8426 or 877-467-2223  today to learn about the treatments for self-harm.

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