Why Do People Self-Injure?

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If someone close to you is cutting or self-injuring, it’s important to listen. But, before you do, it’s a good idea to understand the underlying causes of self-injury.

If someone close to you is cutting or self-injuring, its important to listen. But, before you do, its a good idea to understand the underlying causes of self-injury.

Many people harbor serious misconceptions about people who hurt themselves. These myths can make it harder for those closest to them to ask for help.

Its a coping mechanism

Self-injury can be a way to express emotions that are too difficult to communicate verbally. People who engage in self-harm often keep it a secret and may be afraid of how others will react. It is important to listen with empathy and not judge or accuse. It is also a good idea to avoid shaming the person by asking what do you need? Instead, try to find other ways to help them cope with their pain.

Many people who engage in self-harm are able to stop the behavior with the help of treatment. The first step is recognizing the condition and seeking professional care. This can include a therapist with experience in treating a range of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.

Another option is expressive therapies, which involve expressing emotions through art, music, dance or drama. These can be used alone or in combination with psychotherapy approaches. Examples of this include drawing the areas that hurt or going for a walk at the beach.

Its a habit

When youre in emotional pain, the urge to hurt yourself may become overwhelming. Its important to try to find other ways of dealing with these feelings. Trying to numb the feeling will only lead to bigger problems down the line, including major depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide.

If someone you care about has been self-harming, its important to talk to them in a non-judgemental, caring way. You may not understand their reasons for harming themselves but remember that there is much support out there for people who need it.

Its also helpful to encourage them to seek professional help and reassure them that they are not alone. Be careful to avoid giving ultimatums, such as stop or else as these tend to drive the behaviour underground. Instead, you could offer to go to the GP with them or to a therapist together. You can even create a safe distraction box filled with things that bring them comfort when they are triggered by the urge to self-harm.

Its a sign of a mental health condition

Many people who self-injure suffer from underlying mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression. They may also have a history of trauma or eating disorders. Self-harm is a way for them to cope with pain and upsetting feelings. Sticking a label of crazy or dangerous on them isnt accurate or helpful.

You can recognise that someone is self-harming if they have unexplained injuries or scars on their body. They might also hide or cover up their injuries, for example by wearing long sleeves or pants even in hot weather. They might also claim to be clumsy or have frequent accidents, which can be a form of denial.

If you notice any of these behaviours in your loved one, try to talk openly about it. However, you dont want to be intrusive and cause them to isolate more. Banner Health has a range of treatment options for non-suicidal self-injury, including psychotherapy and medications. Generally, these treatments begin with a medical assessment of the injured areas.

Its a sign of isolation

People who self-harm are often isolated and afraid of how others will react. Their secrecy can lead to more serious injuries as cuts can become infected or they misjudge the depth of their wounds. Keeping things secret can also make it harder to open up about other problems in their lives or seek help in the future.

When talking to a loved one about their self-harm, avoid judging them or making assumptions. This will only drive their behaviour underground. Instead, listen and reassure them that you want to support them.

It can be helpful to talk to someone who has experienced self-harm themselves, as well as a GP or health professional. There are treatments available, including talking therapies that focus on helping with coping skills and problem-solving. Many young people who have suffered from self-harm have found that when they get the help and support they need, their problems begin to improve. They will feel less overwhelmed and may not need to self-harm as much.