Self-Harm ©

Self-Harm is the deliberate infliction of damage to your own body that involves cutting, branding, piercing the skin with sharp objects, burning, pulling out hair, scratching and other forms of injury. It is a form of emotional release that can lead to complications when untreated. Most frequently, the legs, arms and front of the torso are the targets of self-injury, but any area of the body may be used for self-injury. People who self-harm may use more than one method to harm themselves.


Most people who self-harm, do it to regulate their mood. For instance, there may be feelings of panic, guilt, worthlessness, self-hatred, loneliness, anger, rejection, or confused sexuality. The person may be motivated by a need to distract themselves from an inner turmoil, or to quickly release anxiety that has built up due to an inability to express an intense emotion(s). It is in general a sign of intense inner turmoil, of anxiety and/or suppressed emotions.


A person may self-harm to maintain a feeling of control over their body when other life situations seem beyond their control. They might do it to express anxiety, pain, or other emotions. People who self-harm often report an inability to express their feelings, difficulties in different types of relationships and feelings of loneliness and emptiness. They may feel that cutting, or other acts involving physical pain are the only way to relieve their feelings. However, the relief is temporary. Quite often the behaviour develops in adolescence and when untreated may continue for many years.  


Signs of Self-Harm

  • Avoidance of situations where revealing clothing is expected

  • Avoiding social situations

  • Excessive body piercing

  • Excessive tattooing

  • Fresh cuts

  • Frequent complaints of accidental injury

  • Hair loss or bald spots

  • Isolation

  • Keeping sharp objects on hand

  • Low mood, tearfulness or a lack of motivation

  • Making excuses for having cuts, marks or wounds

  • Scars

  • Scratches

  • Spending extended periods in a locked bedroom or bathroom

  • Spending a lot of time alone

  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather

  • Withdrawal from peers

  • Wounds


Effects of Self-Harm

  • Chronic pain

  • Fear of people finding out

  • Infection from wounds or the instruments used

  • Permanent scaring or disfigurement

  • Permanent tissue damages

  • Severe bleeding and anaemia

  • Severe, possibly fatal injury

  • Worsening feelings of shame, guilt and low self-esteem

  • Worsening of underlying issues and disorders, if not adequately treated


Therapy

The confidential and safe therapeutic setting will enable the client who is self-harming to express their helplessness and to fully understand their emotions. Here is where they learn to break away from their self-harming. The client will learn coping skills that will enable them to lift their inclination to self-harm.

 

Gene Barry Psychotherapist

© Gene Barry