It’s estimated that 2% to 6% of the general public has engaged in self-harm. We may have gone through it ourselves, or a loved one is going through it. Understanding self-harm, why it happens, and how to see the signs of mental distress in those struggling is important. Find out what self-harm is and what causes it to happen.
The definition of self-harm refers to nonsuicidal self-injury. It is the act of causing physical pain or cutting yourself. This is not meant to be a suicidal attempt, like some forms of bodily harm. Self-harm is done to cope with emotional pain or traumatic memories.
Most people do this because it creates temporary calm and control. They may experience a release of physical and emotional tension for a few minutes or a few hours. The problem is that these feelings do not last; eventually, guilt and shame return. The emotions that caused the harm also return, creating a vicious cycle.
Symptoms of Self-Harm
There are a variety of symptoms that we can look out for when it comes to self-harm. It is essential to identify these symptoms to know when our loved one needs help. Sometimes these symptoms are overlooked when people don’t want to deal with them. Or they may be ignored for so long that they become normal. It’s important to take these symptoms seriously if we see them in any of our loved ones.
Those struggling with self-harm may show signs of emotional and behavioral issues. They may have mood changes that happen at the drop of a hat. They may have become impulsive and very intense. The behavioral issues depend on the person and how they would usually behave. Someone who would usually be very extroverted may become reclusive and shy. Or someone thoughtful may start acting recklessly.
Causing Physical Injuries
The main warning signs of self-harm are physical signs. These can show up in various ways depending on how the person copes. The most well-known form of self-harm is cutting. This often shows up as slash marks over their arms and other parts of their body. Other forms of harm, like scratches, bite marks, and bruises, are also very common. Some people may even rub at an area of their skin until they create a friction burn. Others may grip onto sharp objects until they puncture their skin. If we notice any strange signs of harm, we must take them seriously and move forward with empathy. They may try to make excuses or talk about fake accidents they had, but eventually, too many unexplained wounds are going to tell the real story.
Wearing Clothes to Cover Areas
Many people who struggle with self-injury may also start to change their style. This is not usually because they are trying to express themselves differently. They may begin to wear long sleeves on hot days when everyone else is in short sleeves. They could be doing this because they are hiding marks on their arms that they don’t want people to see. We must remember that self-harm can happen anywhere. This can happen on any part of their body, making it hard to tell when they are trying to hide the areas.
What Causes Self-Harm?
The causes of self-harm depend purely on a case-by-case basis. Someone may harm themselves because they don’t want to cope with traumatic memories. They may have had a traumatic childhood or suffer from PTSD. Some people self-harm because they don’t know how to cope with their emotions. They may feel very angry or anxious, which is how they deal with it.
Self-harm creates a temporary form of control that people can hold onto. In those moments, they are in control of their pain and can replace emotional pain with physical pain.
How to Treat Self-Harm
If we ever suspect that our loved one self-harms, we must act. These kinds of signs should not go ignored since self-harm is a serious problem. The first thing we should do is try to talk with our loved ones. Approach them with empathy and understanding, willing to hear their side of the story instead of making accusations.
It is essential to let them know that this is a severe problem and that they need help. It isn’t something they should be ashamed of, but it needs to be addressed. The best place to get help for them is to take them to a facility with staff trained to help. Comprehensive Wellness Center has both inpatient and outpatient mental health programs. It also offers a trauma program for those who self-harm due to past trauma.
Self-harm is a serious mental health condition where a person is intentionally harming their body. Contact us today at Comprehensive Wellness Center in South Florida if you need help for yourself or a loved one.