Though those who have never self-harmed often think that those who do self-harm do so with the intention of suicide, this is typically not the case.
Self-harm, or-self injury, is the act of intentionally injuring yourself with the goal of releasing unpleasant feelings or at least distracting yourself from those feelings. Sometimes a person might purposely cut or scratch their skin, ingest harmful and dangerous substances or objects, or hit themselves. Depending on the person, self-harm might also involve overdosing on drugs, driving recklessly, or abusing alcohol.
Those who self-harm are usually coping with their feelings in the best way they know how, though self-harm is never actually the best way to cope.
People who self-harm often truly believe that hurting themselves intentionally somehow gives them control over their lives and their feelings, or that the pain they feel after injuring themselves is somehow better than feeling the numbness or emptiness that they have gotten used to the feeling.
The relief that comes from self-injury is short-lived, and soon enough, those who self-harm are back to feeling that urge to hurt themselves again. They might also feel shame and embarrassment from scars that the self-injury has left, or even from being caught in the act of injuring themselves.
Alternatives to self-harm include snapping rubber bands on the places you usually hurt yourself, like your arms or legs; using a red marker to draw where you typically cut; or holding ice cubes in your hands, the crooks of your elbows, or behind your knees. While these feelings can give you the sensation of self-injury, they are harmless and can substitute for more dangerous sensations.
If you self-harm, you should try to confide in a close, trusted friend or family member, even if it’s difficult.
Opening up to someone about self-harming might help you identify why you think you do it, and telling someone can also keep you accountable when you are tempted to self-harm or have self-harmed again.
If you don’t feel like you can talk to someone close to you, find a self-harm support group in your community, or search for a self-harm chat room online. Sometimes speaking to strangers can be easier than speaking to those you love.
Reach out to us to take back control of your mental health and to find help in your self-care journey.