By Samantha Glosser
Self-harm, also known as self-injury, is becoming far more common than it used to be. Studies have shown that around two to three million Americans engage in self-harm every year. However, despite the growing number of people who inflict harm on themselves, self-harm is still a topic that many people do not want to talk about. It can be a scary and uncomfortable topic to discuss, but avoiding conversations about this topic creates a cycle of stereotypes and misinformation that will make people who harm themselves feel alone and that they cannot ask for help. In opening up the discussion about self-harm, there are a few important things to note.
What is self-harm? Self-harm can be defined as the act of inflicting deliberate injury onto oneself. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: cutting, burning, bruising, pulling hair, and breaking bones. Self-harm is not a sign of suicidality, it is a coping mechanism individuals have adapted to deal with various types of deep emotional distress.
Why do people self-harm? Like most mental health issues, the cause of self-harm cannot be attributed to one factor. There are numerous different reasons that someone might turn to self-harm as a coping mechanism. These reasons include, but are not limited to, the following: loss of control over emotions, feeling numb or empty, confusion about sexual or gender identity, bullying, and physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Self-harm allows sufferers to turn emotional pain into physical pain, or it allows them to feel something when they are numb and empty.
Who engages in self-harm? Self-harm does not discriminate. It can affect you no matter your age, race, or gender. However, there are a few groups who are at a higher risk for self-harm according to recent research. These groups include the following: LGBTQ+ individuals, people aged 12-25, individuals battling addiction, and individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and eating disorders. Often times you will not even know that someone is struggling with self-harm, because those who harm themselves commonly go to great lengths to keep their behavior a secret.
Can self-harm be treated? Although self-harm is not considered a mental disorder, there are still treatment options available. Treatment consists of psychotherapy which helps the individual to identify what causes them to self-harm and teaches them coping mechanisms that do not rely on bodily harm.
If you or someone you know 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 http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/
Sources: Grohol, J. M. (n.d.). Cutting and Self-Injury [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/cutting-and-self-injury/
Lyons, N. (n.d.). Self-Harm: The Myths & the Facts [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/embracing-balance/2015/07/self-harm-the-myths-the-facts
What is Self Injury (SI)? (2016, July 17). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-self-injury-si/