What Are Self-Harm Behaviors?
Self-harm behavior, sometimes called nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), refers to intentionally hurting oneself as a way to cope with emotional pain, trauma, stress, or overwhelming feelings. This harmful and unhealthy method of dealing with distressing emotions or situations is more common than most people probably imagine. It’s essential to recognize that self-harm behavior is never the fault of the person engaging in it.
No one should ever be shamed or blamed for this. While witnessing these behaviors or the results of them can be stressful for worried loved ones, the focus should be on empathy, understanding, and, most of all, getting professional help. People who engage in self-harm are not necessarily trying to end their lives or “get attention” but instead seeking relief from emotional turmoil or seeking to regain control over their emotions.
Examples of Self-Harm Behaviors
Self-harm can take many different forms, so this list may not be complete. But if you understand the general definition of self-harm behaviors and the reasons and motivations for it, it will be easier for you to identify and, hopefully, a bit easier to understand. Hurting oneself seems very counterintuitive to most of us.
It runs completely contrary to our basic instincts for survival and self-preservation, after all. But that fact can also help us to understand that anyone who engages in self-harm behaviors must be struggling with something very uncomfortable in order to resort to physically harming themselves just to cope with the emotional discomfort.
Using a sharp object, such as a knife or razor blade, to make cuts on one’s skin, often on the arms, legs, or other hidden parts of the body.
Scratching or pinching:
Intentionally scratching or pinching oneself hard enough to break the skin and cause bleeding or bruising.
Deliberately burning the skin with a lighter, match, or hot object, resulting in burns or blisters.
Hitting or punching:
Striking oneself with fists, objects, or against hard surfaces to inflict pain or cause bruises.
Pulling out hair from the scalp, eyebrows, or eyelashes, which can result in bald patches or skin damage.
Biting oneself hard enough to break the skin and cause bleeding or bruising.
Interfering with wound healing:
Picking at scabs or preventing wounds from healing properly, which can lead to infections or scarring.
Poisoning or overdosing:
Ingesting toxic substances or taking excessive amounts of medication without the intent to commit suicide, but rather to cause harm or discomfort.
It is essential for individuals engaging in self-harm behaviors to seek help from a mental health professional, as these behaviors can actually become addictive and may lead to more severe harm or complications over time. Mental health professionals, like the team at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic can work with individuals to develop healthier coping mechanisms and address the emotional issues that fuel their self-harm behaviors.
Why Do People Have Self-Harm Behaviors?
Self-harm behavior is most often seen in people with depression, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), eating disorders or other trauma-related mental health challenges. Trauma from neglect or physical or psychological abuse can also be found at the root of self-harm behavior in many people.
The causes of self-harming behaviors are different from person to person. But, research tells us that self-harm is often linked to a person’s difficulty expressing and/or managing their emotions. Experiencing intense emotional upheaval and not having a healthy way to express or process those feelings causes emotional pressure to build up. The person, lacking some other form of release, turns to self-harming behaviors as a coping mechanism.
Put simply, most people who have self-harming behaviors do these things because they are very sad, anxious or angry and have been unable to find ways to express those feelings and process them so they can move on.
The pain caused by the self-harming behaviors gives them temporary relief or distraction from their intense emotions. Self-harm can even release endorphins, which are ‘feel good’ chemicals. This provides some relief from intense emotions. It is also a significant reason why self-harm behavior often becomes a compulsion or addictive in nature.
Due to this emotional vulnerability, self-harm behavior can become a coping mechanism for these individuals, a way to alleviate some of the emotional pain that they are experiencing. By self-harming, individuals attempt to numb or distract themselves from the emotional turmoil that they are experiencing.
Mental health conditions often associated with self-harm behavior include:
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- Major Depression
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Eating Disorders
Can Self-Harm Behavior Be Cured or Treated?
Self-harm behavior can absolutely be treated successfully, yes! Some strategies that may be used include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and other forms of talk therapy we use here at NP Addiction Clinic
Group therapy and support groups can also offer individuals a sense of community, understanding, and support.
The key to resolving self-harm behaviors lies in getting to the root causes of these actions. That often takes time, and it can be uncomfortable for the individual. But it is crucial for them, and their loved ones, to understand that only by getting to the heart of their trauma and directly addressing any diagnosed mental health disorders, can we move past the self-harm. Healing in mental health is always a process of course. Recovery from self-harm behaviors is no different.
Do People Get Residential Mental Health Care for Self-Harm Behaviors?
Absolutely! This is more common than you might imagine, in fact. Residential mental health treatment is usually the most effective approach for people living with self-harm behavior they have been unable to stop. Sometimes outpatient counseling and therapy just aren’t enough to help create the needed changes to initiate recovery.
People with self-harm behaviors will often check into an inpatient mental health program (aka residential mental health) when their progress in outpatient counseling has been too slow.
The residential treatment for mental health we offer at NP Addiction Clinic provides a supportive, controlled, and safe environment for people to not only process difficult emotions but learn to express these feelings effectively and adopt healthy coping mechanisms in place of self-harm. This is exactly the kind of help a person needs to move beyond their self-harming behaviors.
Treatment for Self-Harm Behaviors and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury at NP Addiction Clinic
Only a residential mental health program, like ours, can provide a therapeutic, clinically supervised environment for healing 24 hours a day. Self-harming behaviors can be very difficult to live with for both the sufferer and the people who care about them most. But recovery is absolutely within reach for you or the person you love who is suffering from self-harm behaviors. Call the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic at (888) 574-3506 if you would like to learn more about how we can help. If you would like to see how your health insurance could be used for mental health treatment here, feel free to submit our confidential insurance verification form.