There are several different terms when it comes to self-injury. It can be self-harm, self-mutilation, or just cutting. All of which are intentional harm to a person’s body. Self-injury generally leaves some sort of mark and can cause tissue damage. There are various behaviors that are also associated with self-injury.
- Cutting oneself
- Burning or branding with something hot
- Excessive tattoos or body piercings
- Re-opening wounds or picking at the skin
- Pulling of hair
- Banging head
- Hitting oneself with an object
- Breaking of bones
Who is Likely to Practice Self-Injury?
This type of behavior can happen across the entire spectrum of people. This self-injury behavior isn’t limited to race, sex, age, socio-economics, religion, or education. But it does seem to occur more among the following:
- Female adolescents
- Those with history of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse
- People with already existing issues like eating disorders, OCD, and substance abuse
- Those who are raised in families that didn’t allow the expression of any kind of anger
- People who tend to lack the ability or skills to express their emotions properly and don’t have good social support
What Can Lead to Self-Injury?
Self-injury can often happen when someone faces what they feel is overwhelming feelings. It also can be some sort of rebellion or rejection of the values of their parents. Those who practice self-injury may often feel it’s a way to:
- Relieve their intense feelings, anxiety, or pressure on a temporary basis
- A way to control and manage their pain
- Provide a way to break through their emotional numbness they may be feeling
- A way of asking for the help they need in a way that is indirect
- A way to affect others by trying to manipulate them or trying to make them care
Sometimes, self-injury can be a reflection of their own self-hatred. Some are trying to punish themselves because of strong feelings they might be having and weren’t allowed to express when they were children. They might also be trying to punish themselves for being undeserving or being bad. Even though this type of behavior is can be life-threatening, it isn’t considered to be behavior associated with someone being suicidal.
Symptoms of Self-Injury
If you’re concerned about someone who might be suffering from this, here are some of the symptoms you should be looking for:
- Cuts or burns that can’t be explained away
- Scratching or self-punching leaving marks
- Sticking with needles
- Eye pressing
- Arm or finger biting
- Picking at their skin
- Pulling their hair out
Key Warning Signs
There are key warning signs that a person might be doing self-injury and they include:
- Wearing long sleeves and/or long pants when it’s hot
- Objects you might not expect a person you know to have like razors, lighters, and sharp objects
- Lowered self-esteem
- Hard time handling their feelings
- Problems with their relationships
- Poor performance at home, school, or at work
How Does One Diagnose Self-Injury?
If someone is showing signs of harming themselves, a therapist who has expertise in self-injury needs to be consulted. This person will be qualified to make the right evaluation and then recommend the type of treatment they might need. Often, self-injury is just a symptom of more serious mental illness that include:
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Substance abuse
- Bipolar Disorder
- Major Depression
- Anxiety Disorders
How Can Self-Injury Be Treated?
There are several different ways someone can be treated for this disorder that include the following:
- DBT – This is both individual and group therapy that has a goal of helping people master their self-destructive behavior like self-injury. They teach them ways to tolerate distress better and learn coping skills through techniques like mindfulness.
- Psychotherapy – Offers counseling that can help people learn to stop involving themselves in self-injury.
- PTS Therapies – These therapies can be helpful in treating those who tend to have a history of incest or abuse.
- Group Therapy – This offers people the opportunity to talk about their issues in a group with people who have experienced problems that are similar. Often this can help decrease the shame one has associated with self-injury.
- Family Therapy – This addresses family history and any stress that may be related to self-injury behavior. It can help members of a family to learn how to communicate better and to be more open with one another.
- Medication – Often antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, or low dosage antipsychotics can help especially when combined with a therapy.
DBT often can be of great success in treating those with self-injury because it combines both the elements of mindfulness and CBT.
Prognosis for Those Who Engage in Self-Injury Behavior
Prognosis for those who engage in self-injury behavior can vary. It will depend on the individuals psychological or emotional state they are in. It will also depend on any underlying mental health issues that might be involved. It’s very important that the factors are determined and then identify and treat any kind of pre-existing disorder there might be.
It’s important to contact a professional if you or you know of someone who is engaging in self-injury behavior. By getting counseling there is hope that the individual will be able to recover from it and be able to live a normal and happy life.