Intentionally harming your own body — also known as self-injury, self-harm, or self-directed injury — is understood to be an unhealthy and often addictive, coping mechanism. Self-harm is typically not a suicide attempt. Sufferers of this disorder turn to this behavior to help them handle deep feelings of emotional pain, anger, and frustration. Because the practice brings only a momentary feeling of control and release of tension, the behavior often increases in frequency and becomes a long-term self-harm addiction.
Forms of self-harm addiction include:
cutting, scratching, or piercing the skin (with a sharp object)
burning (with lit matches, cigarettes, or heated metal items)
carving words or symbols on the skin
hitting or punching oneself
pulling out hair
obsessively picking at wounds so they don’t heal
Signs and Effects of Self-Injury
Sufferers of cutting and self-harm addiction often practice it only in private and do it in a ritualistic manner that leaves a pattern on the skin. If you suspect a loved one of engaging in self-harm, keep an eye out for these signs:
scratches, scars, or fresh cuts — particularly if they appear in a pattern
frequent bruising or other wounds
keeping (or hiding) sharp objects in their room
wearing long sleeves or pants, even in hot weather
emotional instability, unpredictable behavior, and difficulty being around other people
expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
Self-injury can cause a variety of complications, including infections, scars, or disfigurement, increased feelings of shame and guilt and worsening of underlying issues (such as depression or anxiety), severe and possibly even fatal injury
While self-harm itself is not a suicide attempt, engaging in this behavior can increase the risk of suicide. Coping by damaging the body in times of distress may increase the sufferer’s inclination to fatally harm the body.
Sufferers can be helped! Treatment for self-harm addiction is a focus of the services at A Friend’s House in Bluffton, IN. Our free long-term transitional home offers self-harm treatment, support, and recovery for women across the United States and Canada. Our counselors work closely with the residents to help them learn healthier coping mechanisms, alternatives to self-harm, and to address the underlying feelings of helplessness and despair. Talk therapy and counseling are a large part of the assistance we provide, with the goal of the resident taking over control of her own life.
L, one of our self-injury graduate successes, explained that her counselors expected her to complete the homework they assigned and held her accountable for her own success.
“Some of the hardest months of my life were spent at A Friend’s House. I faced the reasons why I hurt myself all those years. I discovered there was a cycle that described my pattern of self-destruction. Identifying the parts to this cycle helped me understand my behaviors. I learned ways to stop myself before I totally snowballed out of control.”
After graduating from A Friend’s House, L attended Ball State University and graduated with a degree in psychology. She said,
“I facilitate a self-advocacy group for severely mentally ill clients, and am making plans to begin graduate school to work toward a Masters in Social Work. While I’m not able to regain seven horrific years of my life back, maybe I can save someone else from facing the giant problems I faced.”
“Emotional abuse”, “psychological abuse”, and “mental abuse” are all terms for a situation in which one person dominates or controls another. This generally happens through a regular pattern of:
constant criticism or shaming – verbal abuse
bullying, threatening and intimidating
manipulation (making you feel it’s your fault)
disengagement (ignoring you)
It can happen in any close relationship: male to female partners, female to male partners, parents to children, etc. Psychological abuse has insidious effects — the “walking on eggshells” and the constant adaptations you make to avoid “setting off” your abuser, are the true costs to your mental health. Often, the victim does not consider the mistreatment to be “abusive”. You learn to cope through denial and minimizing your own feelings. The effects of emotional abuse can lead to lifelong psychological scars, including depression and anxiety.
Signs of Emotional Abuse or Mental Abuse
If your situation makes you wonder if you like yourself or if you feel safe and supported, you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship. Other signs of emotional abuse is if your relationship frequently makes you feel:
unseen, unheard, or like you don’t matter
unattractive or unintelligent
at fault for the problems in your partner’s life
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, take note of these specific behaviors common to emotional abusers:
making fun or you or putting you down (what they may call “teasing”) in front of other people
disregarding your opinion or ideas
accusing you of being “too sensitive”
requiring their permission to do something on your own or make a decision
controlling your finances
giving you contemptuous or disapproving looks or body language around other people
enraged by other people laughing at them or “not showing them respect”
repeatedly ignoring your requests or your boundaries
blaming you for their unhappiness, life problems, or difficulties
being emotionally distant most of the time
pouting or withdrawing to get attention or to get what they want
Mental Abuse Treatment Center
The first and most important step is to realize that the abuse is happening. A Friend’s House is a mental abuse treatment center — also offering a number of other support and counseling services — that help our residents recover from mental and emotional abuse. If you recognize yourself or your situation in any of the above specifics, A Friend’s House can help you stop the abuse and begin to heal. Our counselors are trained to help you recover and rebuild your sense of self and regain power over your own life. Therapy, counseling, and support will help you:
put your own needs first
realize you can’t fix your abuser
AND realize YOU are not to blame
S is one of our many Success Stories. Already fragile from her parents’ divorce, she then had to deal with mental abuse.
“My step-dad was controlling and abusive. He told me I would never amount to anything and after hearing that so many times, I started to believe it.”
She eventually turned to drug use and found herself in other emotionally abusive relationships. Her experience at A Friend’s House helped her find new ways to trust herself and learn to make good choices. She says,
“My overall experience at A Friend’s House has been pretty amazing…. it was by no means the easiest thing that I had to do. Being faced with and working through your problems is not easy, but it was worth it. I know if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing, I still would have come to AFH. I think AFH is amazing and anyone lucky enough to get the opportunity to come here is truly blessed.”
It is important to understand that eating disorders are not “a lifestyle choice”. Eating disorders — extreme emotional responses and physical actions related to food, weight, and body image — are serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses. They can result from a complex mix of genetic, biological, psychological, and social influences.
The most common types of eating disorders are:
binge-eating disorder: compulsive eating; consuming large amounts of food quickly and secretly
bulimia: regularly forcing the body to reject food by vomiting or the use of laxatives
anorexia: obsessive dieting and self-starvation
Each of these types of eating disorders causes severe physical consequences to the sufferer’s body. They also damage your emotional and mental state — straining relationships, affecting school and jobs, even leading to thoughts of helplessness and suicide.
Signs of an eating disorder
Eating disorders go way beyond a desire to lose weight. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, look for two or more of these signs of eating disorders:
extreme weight loss or weight gain
obsessing about food, calories, diet, and weight
unusual food rituals, such as excessive chewing, rearranging food on the plate, etc.
avoidance of eating around other people
large quantities of food disappearing
finding evidence (e.g. wrappers) of large quantities of food being consumed in secret
frequent trips to the bathroom, evidence of vomiting, or laxative use
withdrawing from friends, family, and regular activities
Symptoms of eating disorders
Eating disorders are dangerous and life-threatening if not treated. Symptoms of eating disorders include:
brittle hair and nails
irregular heart beat, even heart damage
osteoporosis and muscle loss
Eating disorder treatment
There is hope. Eating disorders can be successfully treated and the sufferers go on to live healthy, happy, well-adjusted lives. At A Friend’s House in Bluffton, IN, our inpatient eating disorder treatment center offers help for women seeking from anorexia treatment, bulimia treatment, binge eating disorder treatment and eating disorder help through individual and group talk therapy, nutritional counseling, lifestyle counseling, and monitoring any medications prescribed by your doctor.
E is one of our many success stories. She is a young woman who appeared to be happy and positive and people liked to be around her; but inside she was full of doubt and turmoil that she tried to escape using unhealthy coping mechanisms.
“I started binging and purging when I was 10… and abusing diet pills when I was 13. [But] I learned here to change the way I think. One of the groups we do here focuses almost exclusively on acknowledging our distorted thoughts and changing them. I really hadn’t ever realized how much of an effect my own thoughts had on me—I hadn’t even taken the time to acknowledge what my thoughts were. They were playing like a record on repeat in the back of my mind for so long that I was actually surprised when I discovered just how much negative self-talk I was engaged in at any given moment.”
She stopped trying to cope by obsessively controlling her eating and weight, and other unhealthy behaviors. E learned,
““It’s about coming to terms with my past. It’s about learning to treat everyone with love and mercy, myself included.”
If you suffer from chronic depression, you know that it is more than just feeling “blue” or “down”. Depression is dealing with feelings that are deeper than sadness. Depression sufferers have with these depressive feelings and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day. It is very difficult to shake depression on your own, that’s why we’re here to help.
Signs of Depression in Women
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in our country. It affects everything about your life from how you feel, to how you sleep and eat, to even just how you handle daily tasks. Researchers know that is caused by a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Life traumas and stress — and/or a family history of depression — can put you at a higher risk for developing depression.
If you are not sure if you suffer from depression, ask yourself if you frequently and persistently experience any of the following signs of depression:
ongoing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
a short temper and irritability
a loss of interest in things that used to give you pleasure
difficulty concentrating or making decisions
trouble sleeping or difficulty waking up
appetite and weight changes (either extreme gain or loss)
using sex, drugs, alcohol or food to “make you feel better”
suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death)
You do not have to have every symptom to be battling depression. But if any of these, or a combination of them, are affecting your ability to function daily and in a healthy way, you may be depressed.
Even the most severe cases of depression can be treated. While no two people are affected the exact same way, there are proven treatments that are highly successful. An essential part of kicking depression is therapy or counseling. A Friend’s House gets to know our residents personally and uses “talk therapy”, problem-solving therapy, and behavioral therapy applications to help women conquer their depression.
A Friend’s House is more than just a depression treatment center; but because this illness strikes so many women in today’s society, depression treatment is a large part of the highly successful services we provide in our long-term transitional housing program. We hope that if you are battling depression, feeling hopeless, or dealing with suicidal thoughts, you will read our Success Stories to learn more about how we have helped young women dealing with depression and other difficult challenges in their lives.
As E, one of our graduates, explains,
“I honestly don’t know where I would be right now if I had not come to A Friend’s House. For many years, I just sort of accepted that I may never be truly happy. Even at the times when I was hopeful that someday I would know what it meant to really experience joy, it was mostly just a distant dream. Coming here has shown me that joy is possible.
For the first time I can remember, I am genuinely excited about life—not about upcoming events, but about simply living. A Friend’s House is the instrument that God used to show me that joy is a reality. For that, I am eternally grateful.”