Help for Self-Harm and Cutting
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.”