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



Self-harm is a way of expressing feelings that can’t be put into words by deliberately harming the surface of your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It’s the release of pain and tension one feels inside. It’s a distraction from overwhelming feelings and emotions, from no emotion at all, and can be used as a way to punish oneself.  It’s a way to feel control.

Dear readers that self-injure,             
            Maybe you feel ashamed, maybe you think no one would understand, maybe you think you won’t be left alone again, and quite honestly you might be scared of hearing that you’re crazy. But hiding who you are and what you feel is a heavy burden. We have all been there in one way or another. Truthfully, the secrecy and guilt of self-harm affects your relationships with your friends and family members and the way you feel about yourself. It can make you feel even more lonely, worthless, and trapped. But you are not crazy, and you are definitely not alone.

Why You Should Stop:

  • The relief is short lived.
  • Keeping the secret is a lonely and a difficult journey.
  • You can hurt yourself badly, on purpose or not, and misjudge the damage you’ll do.
  • Those who care for you, even those who are unaware of the situation, would be broken to know it.

How to Rid Yourself of the Mechanism:

  • Communicate with somebody you can confide in. A friend, a family member, a teacher, etc.
  • Give yourself time to heal.
  • Seek out professional help and begin to both work with and understand your emotions.
  • Sprint, draw, paint, sing, scream, run, cry, and do whatever you can to make your impulse go away in that moment.

How to Help Someone that Does Self-harm:

  • Don’t judge.
  • Respect the person’s time needed to heal.
  • Offer support, even if you might not completely understand.
  • Help find therapy, and offer to help reach out to more adults and professionals.

By Isabelle Kreydin

 If you or someone you know is self-harming and needs help, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. 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, please visit