Self-harm is an intentional injury to one’s own body. Self-harm behaviors can include skin cutting or puncturing, head hitting, burning, scratching or other efforts to inflict physical injury and pain. Self-harming behaviors are usually in response to emotional distress and are typically efforts at coping with intense emotional pain.
Why Would Someone Intentionally Hurt Themselves?
There many reasons someone might engage in self-harming behaviors. When there is physical pain, the brain releases endorphins to protect from the experience of this pain. Endorphins can, in turn, lessen the experience of emotional pain as well. When emotions are intensely painful, self-harm behaviors might be used to distract from, express, or manage this emotional pain. Usually, the immediate consequence of self-harming is temporary relief, often followed by feelings of shame and embarrassment. Most importantly, while suicide is rarely deliberate, unintentional suicide does occur on occasion.
How To Help Someone Who Is Harming Themselves?
As difficult as it might be to understand self-harming behaviors, viewing these behaviors as coping efforts can allow for a compassionate response. If you or a loved one engage in self-harming behaviors, seek a knowledgeable and qualified mental health professional for support. Treatment might draw from approaches such as dialectic and cognitive behavioral therapies to replace difficulties in coping with more effective and less harmful strategies. As well therapy can help reduce the intensity of emotion making emotions less difficult to manage overall.