Self-harm is the act of deliberately causing physical harm to one’s own body. This behavior typically begins in the teenage years and is more common in females, although anyone can struggle with this method of coping. Some even continue to self-harm over many years, if treatment and new coping strategies are not taught. Some examples of self-harm may include: cutting, scratching, burning, pulling hair/eyebrows out, and/or picking scabs. Although self-harm is not itself considered a mental disorder, it can be a symptom of an underlying disorder. People who self harm do so because they have difficulty coping with their inner feelings and it can serve as a self-punishment for perceived wrongs, a distraction from those feelings, to release pent-up tension, or because the release of endorphins following an injury produces a temporary euphoric feeling.
Treatment For Self-Harm
Treatment should include an evaluation for a mental, personality, or mood disorder (ie: borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety). Teaching alternative coping strategies, as well as strategies for increasing self-esteem, are integral components of the therapeutic process for those who self-harm. It can be alarming to discover that a loved one is self-injuring; it is important to remain calm and seek medical attention if the injury is severe, and a mental health provider to help address the coping behaviors and underlying causes.