Self-injury, self-harm, or self-mutilation, is the act of deliberately inflicting pain and damage to one's own body. Self-injury most often refers to cutting, burning, scratching, and other forms of external injury; it can, however, also include internal or emotional harm, such as consuming toxic amounts of alcohol or drugs or deliberately participating in unsafe sex. Self-injury is a sign of emotional distress and may grow more intense if a person continues to use self-harm as a coping mechanism. Learning other ways to tolerate the mental pain will make you stronger in the long term. To learn more about Self-injury visit NAMI's website NAMI- Self-harm.
People might self-harm to:
- Process their negative feelings
- Distract themselves from their negative feelings
- Feel something physical, particularly if they are feeling numb due to depression
- Develop a sense of control over their lives
- Punish themselves for things they think they’ve done wrong
- Express emotions that they are otherwise embarrassed to show
If you’re worried a family member or friend might be hurting themselves, ask them how they're doing and be prepared to listen to the answer, even if it makes you uncomfortable. This may be a hard subject to understand. One of the best things is to tell them that while you may not fully understand, you’ll be there to help. Don’t dismiss emotions or try to turn it into a joke.
Gently encourage someone to get treatment by stating that self-harm isn’t uncommon and doctors and therapists can help. If possible, offer to help find treatment. But don’t go on the offensive and don’t try to make the person promise to stop, as it takes more than willpower to quit.
Learn how to support someone or get help for self-harm
Find self-harm alternatives:
- Reach out and talk to someone about how you are feeling
- Punch a pillow or a punching bag
- Squeeze ice cubes
- Take a cold shower
- Draw on your body instead of cutting it