Why would you hurt yourself intentionally? This is usually the first question that comes to mind when we learn that someone close to us is engaging in acts of self-injury. Cutting, scratching, burning, hitting, or piercing one’s skin all represent types of self harm and are typically done in secret.
As this month is Self-Harm Awareness Month, our goal is to help answer this question and educate individuals and families on how to identify certain triggers that can prompt self-harming behaviors.
So, Why Do People Self Harm?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, self harm often represents a form of “release” for individuals who are struggling with anger or unresolved emotional pain: “Sometimes, injuring yourself stimulates the body’s endorphins or pain-killing hormones, thus raising their mood. Or if a person doesn’t feel many emotions, they might cause themselves pain in order to feel something “real” to replace emotional numbness.”
Self harm is typically more common in teens and young adults, as this age group tends to be more self-critical of themselves, embarrassed, or even ashamed to admit what they’ve done; therefore, they become unable or unwilling to find alternative coping mechanisms for their own emotional pain.
What Might Trigger Someone to Harm Themselves?
Emotional stress is often considered the catalyst for self harm behaviors. This type of stress may be caused by a reaction to an event that made someone feel:
- Self Critical
“Becoming upset can trigger an urge to self-injure. Many people self-injure only a few times and then stop. But for others, self-injury can become a long-term, repetitive behavior,” (The Mayo Clinic).
How to Stop Self Harm
Though self harm is different from suicide, the act of hurting oneself to cope with emotional pain can lead to dangerous consequences. Therefore, it’s important to find immediate support and guidance from a mental health professional if you or a loved one are showing signs of self harm that might include:
- Scars and bruising
- Fresh cuts or scrapes in patterns
- Baggy clothes to cover self-harm scars
- Sporadic, impulsive behaviors
- Displays of intense self-loathing
At the Calli Institute, we offer children, adolescents, and adults a wide range of personal and professional mental health services, including individual and family therapy, medication management, and psychological testing to help address the underlying issue(s) that’s causing you to experience emotional pain. Once we help you identify the emotional triggers that would cause you to engage in self harm, we then guide you in discovering new, positive coping strategies to replace previous negative habits, allowing you to regain control of your health and wellness and find inner peace.