**Trigger warning: this post talks about what self-harm is, including different ways to self-harm. If you think this may be triggering for you, please do not continue reading.**
Self-injury is when someone intentionally hurts themselves. These behaviors include cutting, burning, picking at skin, hair-pulling, hitting, and drinking harmful chemicals. Self-injuring is a coping mechanism, and it’s important for anyone who self-harms to find healthier ways to cope. For example, you can physically prevent yourself from self-harming by throwing away your blades (or anything else you may use to hurt yourself) or being supervised in a hospital. You can also call 1-800-DONTCUT to make doctor and therapist appointments. Here is a list of some different alternatives to self-injury depending on your mood.
Why do people self-injure?
Here is a list of reasons why people self-harm. Some reasons include affect regulation (“trying to bring the body back to equilibrium in the face of turbulent or unsettling feelings”), communication (“using self-injury has a way to express things they can not speak;” they are not using self-injury as manipulation), and control/punishment.
More women self-injure than men, and approximately 1% of the populations has self-injured. Conditions in which self-injurious behavior is seen include BPD, mood disorders, eating disorders, OCD, PTSD, Dissociative Disorders, anxiety and/or panic disorder, Impulse-Control disorder not otherwise specified, and self-injury as a diagnosis.
What should you do if someone you know self-harms?
Be supportive, but don’t reinforce the behavior. Try to understand that self-harming behavior is an attempt to maintain a certain amount of control. Let the person know that you care about them and are available to listen. Encourage expressions of emotion, including anger. Spend some time doing enjoyable activities together. Offer to help them find a therapist or support group. Don’t make judgemental comments or tell the person to stop the self-harming behavior, because people who feel worthless and powerless are more likely to self-injure.
National Self-Injury Awareness Day is March 1st.