What Is Self-Harm? | Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment
Per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), self-harm refers to when a person inflicts self-injury on purpose without the intention of killing themselves.
While self-harm is not considered a mental health disorder, it can be a warning sign of another mental disorder such as borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or certain eating disorders.
When people self-harm, it can be their way of coping with mood changes such as high anxiety or depression. Those who self-harm can develop health problems if they cut themselves severely or harm themselves in a serious manner which can lead to a potential suicide.
Causes Of Self-Harm
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states people self-harm due to trauma, neglect, or abuse. In fact, self harm practices such as cutting are seen more in young people and young adults.
Those who hurt themselves may suffer from a mental health condition or severe anxiety disorder. If a young person experiences bullying or harassment on social media, they may experience severe mood changes and depression.
Hurting one’s own body is a short-term option to try and relieve the emotional pain the person is experiencing.
Symptoms Of Self-Harm
Those who self-injure may exhibit a variety of symptoms, as there are numerous ways to self-harm. Additionally, there are warning signs of self-harm.
If a person participates in non-suicidal self-injury, some examples may include:
- cutting a part of the body with a sharp object such as a razor, threading needle, or pair of scissors
- burning the skin with a lighter, match, or cigarette
- punching a wall and bruising one’s self
- breaking bones such as slamming the car door on your arm
- hitting or slapping one’s self
Self-Harm Warning Signs
Some of the warning signs and symptoms of self-harm may consist of:
- wearing long sleeves even in hot weather to cover-up scars or marks caused by cutting
- exhibiting bruises, cuts, or burns on the body
- suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
- experiencing difficult emotions which may cause a range of mental health issues
- having trouble problem-solving
- always keeping a sharp object within reach
Self-harm may be a coping mechanism for those experiencing mental anguish or emotional pain. Risk factors associated with self-harm consist of low self-esteem, depression, or feelings of hopelessness.
The feeling of physical pain via self-harm can help distract a person from the negative emotions they experience, resulting in an unhealthy way of coping. The risk of suicide is increased if a person performs self harm practices.
Instead of coping in an unhealthy way, consider finding mental health treatment.
Treatment Options For Self-Harm
If you know a family member or loved one who is struggling with self harm, consider recommending treatment options. A mental health professional can help you discover healthy ways of coping with your mental health to ultimately help you stop self-harming.
To learn how our healthcare providers treat mental health issues in both inpatient and outpatient treatment settings, please contact us today.
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry - Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: What We Know, and What We Need to Know
National Alliance on Mental Illness - Self-Harm
National Institute of Mental Health - Unintentional Injury
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Self Harm
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Self-Harm
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