By: Liz Lynch

Self-harming is classified by the Statistical and Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as non-suicidal self-injury disorder (NSSID). It is an actual disorder that many people often write off as an angsty teens way of getting attention. While self-harming often starts in the teenage years it can persist long into adulthood which has a number of physical, emotional, and social consequences. To most people self-harming is an obvious thing not to do; however, what they don’t realize is that self-harming releases soothing, pain-killing chemicals such as endorphins and endocannabinoids which brings on a feeling of relief.

Why doesn’t everyone do it then? Well research suggests that people who self-harm have significantly lower levels of these naturally produced endorphins. This mean that some people are in a way compensating for these lower levels by self-harming just to feel “normal” without even realizing it. This disorder can bring on a lot of shame and guilt for the sufferer causing them to hide their personal abuse making it more difficult to identify and aid.

Types of Self-harming:

  • Cutting
  • Scratching
  • Burning
  • Biting
  • Hitting or punching one’s self
  • Banging head or other body parts against another surface
  • Piercing the skin with sharp objects (not including body jewelry)
  • Pulling out hair
  • Abusing alcohol / medication

Reasons people self-harm:

  • Provides them with temporary relief of negative emotions
  • Provides them with a distraction from chaotic thoughts and emotions
  • Provides them with a sense of control
  • Form of self-punishment from guilt or shame
  • Sees it as a way to express emotions

Need Immediate Aid?

  • Call 911
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (24-hour hotline)
  • Text the Crisis Line at 741741 (24-hour text line)
  • For therapy see information below

          If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from self-harm, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit


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