Self-harm — or “non-suicidal self-injury,” to use the clinical term — involves intentionally hurting yourself. Despite its prevalence, the topic can make people very uncomfortable to talk about. One of the most common forms of self-harm is cutting oneself, usually with a razor blade or sharp knife. Others hit or burn themselves on purpose. The physical effects of self-harm can be relatively mild, such as scratches and bruises. Or they can be much more serious, including wounds and broken bones.
It may sound disturbing to those who don’t engage in it, but at its core, self-harm is all about emotional distress. Harming oneself physically becomes a way of channeling difficult emotions such as anger, worry, and sadness. Unlike pain under normal circumstances, the pain caused by the harm can feel like a release. For those who feel an unpleasant emotional numbness, physical pain allows them to feel anything at all.
A study from the American Psychological Association suggests self-harm is surprisingly common.
Self-harm can take place at any stage of life, although it’s most prevalent among adolescents and young adults. Also, self-harm is not a mental illness on its own and is not “diagnosable.” However, it’s a powerful indication of emotional dysfunction and the need for help.
It’s important to remember that the acts of self-harm are intended to cause pain, but not death. However, self-harm is an indicator of suicidal behavior later in life. Drug and alcohol use can make self-harm worse and can lead to injuries that are more severe than originally intended. Self-harm is strongly associated with depression, anxiety, trauma/PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders.
Harbor Village is well trained in treating emotional disorders like self-harm, as well as substance use disorders. You don’t need to worry about being judged or made to feel embarrassed. We understand self-harm is a way of avoiding difficult emotions. We can help you discover a better, more effective way of addressing them.
You may have a dual diagnosis of co-occurring mental health conditions that are contributing to your self-harm. If that’s the case and we believe medication can help, our clinical team will discuss it with you. Also, evidence-based therapy has demonstrated success in addressing self-harm. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and rational emotive behavior therapy, our health staff will provide you with the tools to control your emotions, rather than allowing them to control you.
Also, we believe it’s important for you to heal your relationship with your own body as well. Harbor Village provides wellness treatment options, such as yoga and meditation that allow you to develop new respect and regard for your body.